Thoughts on Emancipation Day by Dr. Russell Adams
“Since the Emancipation Proclamation represented a fundamental change in the order to race relations in the United States. The Federal Government made sure that public officials north and south were aware of it. Thus the Emancipation Proclamation was the most publicized governmental statement of the 19th century. Thus virtually everybody in free and most everyone in slave territories… at least “heard” of it before January 1, 1863.”
“As far as is known, Lincoln privately decided on the Proclamation in July.”
He “Began an under-appreciated behind the scenes solicitation of opinion leaders’ support as indicated by letter in “Lincoln Collections”
“…Church services to bring in the New Year along with news of the Proclamation the most noted being held in Boston, Philly, and Washington.”
“On the last night of the year 1862, hundreds of black congregations held all night vigils, awaiting the dawn of the first day of emancipation…”
“The non-literate attended readings in private residences.”
“… General Gordon Granger informed enslaved African Americans in Galveston about the Emancipation Proclamation, it is highly likely that his announcement was old news…” (Juneteenth)
“… Juneteenth has been promoted by Texans as the last to get the ‘News’…”
“‘Juneteenth’ celebrations today are held in scores localities from Florida to Illinois…”
“… On the very day, January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, the Confederates defeated the Union army in the see-saw struggle over this strategic locality.”
“… Official statements to blacks on a face-to-face basis regarding the Proclamation generally came from Union Officers attempting to recruit black military personnel.”
“There are reports that here and there in highly isolated situations, blacks were never told of the Proclamation.”
“The usual practice was for the Federals to assemble the black males, announce the Proclamation and select the ones deemed suited for military service of some kind. In many instance, entire black settlement would take off after the Yankees and learn of the Proclamation.”
Dr. Russell Adams
Professor Emeritus Howard University
Former Department Chairman of African American Studies
"Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it by being a slave himself."
-- Abraham Lincoln
"So the Proclamation of Emancipation, has come at last, or rather its forerunner. I suppose you are all very much excited about it. For my part, I can't see what practical good it can do now. Wherever our army has been there remain no slaves, and the Proclamation will not free them where we don't go."
-- Robert Gould Shaw
"Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson
"Slavery is but half abolished, emancipation is but half completed, while millions of freeman with votes in their hands are left without education."
-- Robert Charles Winthrop
"Father had notions about manhood suffrage, public schools, the education and the elevation of the masses, and the gradual emancipation of the slaves, that did not suit the uncompromising views of people in places like Richmond."
-- John S. Wise
“For many years [after Emancipation] black Washingtonians [from Washington D.C.] celebrated Emancipation Day on April 16 with parades and festivals. In 2002, on the 140th anniversary of D.C. Emancipation, the city government, schools, and citizens of Washington, D.C. revived the tradition of celebrating this historic occasion.”