The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is the focus of an upcoming event in Beaufort.
The African American Historical Cultural Educational Society will present its annual Emancipation Proclamation Observation, which celebrates the 157th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation that changed the federal legal status of more than 3 million people in the southern states from enslaved to free.
The upcoming celebration starts at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1 in the district courtroom of county courthouse in Beaufort.
One of the speakers for this year’s event is Milton Tripp.
He said his speech will cover important topics in history from 1916 through 1964, such as when African Americans were freed, when they were allowed to vote and landmark court cases, such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education.
Mr. Tripp said the ceremony is as important today as it was when the Emancipation Proclamation was originally given.
He also said he was trying to express the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation to today’s younger generations, as well as teach them some lesser-known facts about black Americans.
“We need more youth to participate,” he said. “We are going to cover most information that some of the youth (have) never heard about in a history book.”
Those who attend the celebration can hear the traditional opening song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, music, a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, a reading of the Gettysburg Address, an additional speaker, recognition of departed members and the closing song, “We Shall Overcome.”
According to organizers, the celebration is modeled after Beaufort’s original celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1925, the black men of Beaufort got together and decided to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. The event was organized by five of the town’s prominent men, with Charlie Hawkins leading.
It started with a march from Pine Street to town hall, where Mr. Hawkins would recite the Gettysburg Address. The event lasted all day, and townspeople participated by singing the Negro National Anthem, which has been changed over the years. It is now known as “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The day would end with a dinner of black-eyed peas and fixings. The dinner also included spiritual songs.
The program was disbanded for a few years but was started again by the Rev. Violet Bailey and Muriel Williams. The women went to different black schools in the community presenting programs on poets and singers.
During that time, teachers from these schools would bring up Black History Month, which inspired Rev. Bailey and Ms. Williams to return to the original program their parents started. It has remained the same since.
According to archives.gov, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of civil war.
The proclamation declared “all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are and henceforward shall be free.”
The proclamation also announced the acceptance of African American men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 African American soldiers and sailors had fought for freedom.
The original Emancipation Proclamation is kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.