President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which declared that “all persons held as slaves” in the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
The department is partnering with Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, Old Salem Museums and Gardens, the Forsyth County Public and other groups to commemorate the milestone year in that city.
Churches throughout Forsyth County will hold a “Watch Night” service on New Year’s Eve. The evening services are traditional in some Christian churches, and took on particular significance after Dec. 31, 1862 as many African American congregations gathered to “watch” for Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Many African American congregations continue the practice today.
The 150th anniversary observation of the Emancipation Proclamation will be held in New Bern at the Craven County Courthouse on Jan. 1, at noon. Patriotic music and songs, historic re-enactments – including portrayals of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass – and dramatic reading of the Emancipation Proclamation are planned. Immediately following the program a reception will be held at the Tryon Palace Commission House.
The 12th Annual African American Cultural Celebration at the N.C. Museum of History on Jan. 26 is dedicated to the theme of freedom in acknowledgement of the Emancipation Proclamation sesquicentennial.
The North Carolina Symphony will present three concerts commemorating the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, one at Fayetteville State University at Seabrook Auditorium on Feb. 21, at 8 p.m., and two in Raleigh at Meymandi Concert Hall on Feb. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. The concerts will feature large format Civil War and Civil Rights photographs set to the music of Aaron Copland.
Historic Edenton will present a program centered on the life of former slave, writer and abolitionist Harriett Jacobs on Feb. 9, who hid in the attic of her grandmother’s home for seven years before escaping to freedom. The program will focus on her work helping freedmen after the Civil War.
Bennett Place State Historic Site will present a program on Feb. 23 featuring N.C. Museum of History Curator Earl Ijames on the impact of emancipation on Americans, the role of Elizabeth Keckly, and also offer a tour at the site of four stations where visitors will encounter runaway slaves, U.S. Colored Troops, black impressed workers, and a Confederate camp as well as a yeoman farmer, respectively. All will speak from the perspective of February 1863.
Other state historic sites will offer programs throughout the year to commemorate the emancipation and freedom. The N.C. Museum of History will also present an exhibit on the freedom theme this summer.
In Winston-Salem, Old Salem Museums and Gardens will hold a commemoration at the Juneteenth Luncheon. The Triad Cultural Arts will hold a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at the annual Africana Festival on June 15, and will offer additional programming on Harriet Jacobs. The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts has furnishings and interiors from a house where Jacobs once lived.
A major two-day conference “‘Lay My Burden Down’: Freedom and the Legacies of the Civil War,” commences Oct. 17 at Winston-Salem State University and Old Salem with a keynote speech by Hari Jones of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 18, a full day of lectures, panels and discussions will take place at Wake Forest University. Featured presenters are Thavolia Glymph of Duke University and Ira Berlin, emeritus professor at Johns Hopkins University and editor of “Freedom: A Documentary History.”
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