This is probably my most favorite time of the year, the point where we begin to reflect on what has happened over the course of the out going year and what we are hopeful for in the new year. On the other hand, this is probably my most disappointing time of the year, as well, due to the fact that there is no national holiday to officially commemorate and remember the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, dating back to January 1, 1863, when the nation was involved in a fight to the death between the Union and the Confederacy.
Nearly eight generations ago, on Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, turning the American Civil War into a crusade for freedom. An eyewitness to this historical event, the great Frederick Douglass exclaimed, “joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression from shouts of praise to sobs and tears.” Leading up to the official announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks and their white supporters had gathered in churches across the North and in secret places across the South in “watch night” services on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 1862, to await President Lincoln’s signing of the Proclamation.
Lincoln’s Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery in this country, and to assure a Union victory, it opened the Union Army and Navy to black men, allowing them to fight for a new dignity and self-respect, thus helping to insure “a new birth of freedom.” Not only were they fighting to save the Union, they were fighting for liberty.
Two days from now, on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, one hundred fifty-five years since the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, many communities across the United States will unofficially observe New Year’s Day as Jubilee Day, in commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. This will be a good time for community leaders to use this historical anniversary to reflect on the first year of the Trump presidency and ask if it has been helpful in fulfilling America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.
Also, this New Year’s Day observance of the Emancipation Proclamation can be the time we rededicate ourselves to America’s journey for justice, resolving to work harder at building a more just community. This would really be a great time for us to acknowledge our common humanity, never losing sight of the fact that we’re all in this together, believing that we are very interconnected.
As a greater community, we must express concerns about making voting fairer and easier, while working to insure health care as a right for everyone. And the best way for us to put our children and youth on a path to a better future is to insist on a quality education for all.
So, as we commemorate the historic anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in just two days, let’s work together and do more to help all people maximize the possibilities.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.