Exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, on this very night, Freed Negros and former slaves who had escaped to their freedom in the northern States, gathered in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and other cities and town in the US, north of the Mason Dixon Line.
They gathered and prayed all night long, from sundown, December 31, 1862 until mid-day on January 1, 1863, when the first printings of the Washington, DC Newspaper left the press.
On January 1, 1863, free blacks took their celebrations to the streets and town centers in cities and towns throughout the North.
The Rev. Henry Turner, pastor of the Israel Bethel (A.M.E.) Church in Washington, D.C., was an ardent abolitionist and one of the greatest politicians in his era. This Black preacher captured the excitement of the day, as he wrote:
"Seeing such a multitude of people in and around my church, I hurriedly went up to the office of the first paper in which the proclamation of freedom could be printed . . . and squeezed myself through the dense crowd that was waiting for the paper. The first sheet run off with the proclamation in it was grabbed for by three of us, but some active young man got possession of it and fled. T h e next sheet was grabbed for by several, and was torn into tatters. The third sheet from the press was grabbed for by several, but I succeeded in procuring so much of it as contained the proclamation, and off I went for life and death. Down Pennsylvania [Avenue] I ran as for my life, and when the people saw me coming with the paper in my hand they raised a shouting cheer that was almost deafening."
Our celebration of this historic occasion, is a once in a lifetime experience for most of us and we are blessed to reenact the life changing moments of our ancestors whose courage, demonstrated in their un-ending pursuit of liberty and freedom, encouraged President Abraham Lincoln, to sign one of the truly precious and most truly historic documents in our nation’s history, the “Emancipation Proclamation”.
Pastor J. Edgar Boyd
First AME Church of Los Angeles