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The 'Emancipation Proclamation' Celebration

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    Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary Celebration [Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary Celebration] Image Details This broadside announces that the Colored
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 30, 2007
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      Emancipation Proclamation

      Anniversary Celebration

      Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary Celebration 

                                            Image Details

      This broadside announces that
      Colored people of Preble County,
      recognizing the blessings of Liberty,
      will celebrate the 18th anniversary
      of their deliverance from bondage"
      in Eaton on September 22, 1881.

      The noted speaker at the event
      was the Reverend W. F. Arnett
      of Nashville, Tennessee 

      A significant topic of concern at the event
      was likely the assassination of Ohio-born
      President James A. Garfield, which
      occurred three days earlier.

      Image Title:       
      Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary Celebration

      Image Source:  
      The Ohio Historical Society


      Gallipolis, OH

      by Lynn Wasnak

      Freedom has been celebrated in Gallia County, Ohio,
      for 137 years and has special meaning to the
      celebrants—many of whom are descendents
      of freed, runaway, and emancipated slaves.

      Each September since 1863,
      have gathered in Gallipolis (pop. 4,180) to
      commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation
      issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862.

      The Emancipation, as the celebration is commonly
      called, is reported to be the longest continuous
      running event of its kind in the United States.

      It features speeches of remembrance
      and inspiration, gospel and folk music
      —and most of all, a place for people to
      come together to recall their common ancestry.

      "It's like what Marcus Garvey said,
      `A people without a knowledge of their
      past is like a tree without roots,"'
      says Robert Lawson, who grew up in
      Oak Hill, 20 miles west of Gallipolis.
      "To be anything or go anywhere,
      you need to know where you came from
      and how difficult the struggles were."

      Last year, Lawson, a management consultant
      in Portsmouth, Ohio, brought his two youngest
      children, James and Michael, to the event
      to share his childhood experience.

      [The Gallia County residents who are of the
      African-American Ethnic Grouping have]
      held onto the tradition through strong family
      ties and relationships with local churches.

      "The people here are secluded in a
      way many other communities aren't.

      So knowing your heritage matters,"
      says Adah Ward Randolph, a professor
      at Ohio University in Athens, leafing through
      dozens of three-ring binders spread on
      tables at the Gallia County Fairgrounds.

      Barbara Scott, 70, assembled 35 of the large
      binders—packed with photos, news clippings,
      historical documents, and memorabilia—herself.

      She began compiling the information in 1983
      to help her son learn about his grandparents,
      and soon the project turned into an extensive
      history of
      African-Americans in Gallia County.

      "I remember one year a young man came.
      He'd been trying to find his people for a long time,"
      Scott recalls. "Looking through one of my books,
      suddenly he stopped, pointed at a picture,
      and said, `Here is my grandmother!'
      Tears just started running down his face."

      Respect for the past—and past struggles—keeps
      event organizers determined to continue.

      Before the Civil War, Gallia County was a haven
      for the Mixed-Race children of slaves, says Alice
      Conner Coleman, a Chicago resident who comes
      every year to learn more about her father's ancestors.

      "They kept them in groups to be safe," she explains.

      Many so-called "blacks" in the county are
      light-skinned, like Tijana Justice Mullins,
      an attractive, curly-haired blonde who lives on
      part of the Lambert Lands, 20 miles north of Gallipolis.

      Three brothers, Virginia plantation owners,
      bought the land for their freed slaves in the 1840s.

      As a child, Mullins accompanied her
      Mixed-Race parents to The Emancipation.

      Later, she brought her own daughter,
      Standela, to the celebration.

      Today, Standela, grown and married, sings slave songs
      —handed down over the generations—on the main stage.

      Escaped slaves found refuge in Gallia County, too.

      Scott recalls the story of Mary Agnes Wilson, a young
      black" woman crying on a Southern plantation,
      afraid she'd be sold to another plantation.
      "A soldier, Joseph Smith, said,
      `No, I love you. I won't let you be sold.'

      Crossing the Ohio River at Point
      Pleasant, he carried her to freedom.

      They settled in Buck Ridge and
      became my great-grandparents."

      Family ties and history draw
      some; still others come for the food.

      "Oh yeah! Whatever you could want," Herman
      Mayo says, his eyes lighting up like sparklers.
      "...  A lady I know fries fish up.
      There's corn bread, chicken, bean dinners."

      Not to mention the cream pies, cakes, and cobblers.

      Best of all, Emancipation feeds the soul.

      American Profile

      printer friendly version

      Lynn Wasnak is a freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio


        Related Link:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/2713

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