NAACP, churches celebrate Emancipation Day

The Barnwell-Blackville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) brought in the New Year with an Emancipation Day program held at Second Baptist Church in Barnwell.

The Emancipation Day program was one of many held January 1 primarily in black churches and organizations in the United States.

To understand the significance of the Emancipation Day, go back to January 1, 1863. That was the day President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Lincoln did so under his presidential constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. It was not a law passed by Congress.

The proclamation was actually the second of two issued by Lincoln. The Battle of Antietam, also called the Battle of Sharpsburg, occurred on September 17, 1862 in Maryland. Following the crucial Union victory there, Lincoln issued his proclamation on September 22, 1862, calling on the revolted states to return to their allegiance before the next year, otherwise their slaves would be declared free men. No state returned, and the threatened declaration was issued on January 1, 1863.

According to the National Archives, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation – only in those states which had seceded to form the Confederacy. Those states included South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

What it did do was to free more than 3 million of the 4 million slaves in the nation. And, as the Union Army advanced, the number of freed slaves increased.

Slaves in “border” states and northern states were not freed by the proclamation.

The actual document signed by Lincoln is preserved in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The total abolition of slavery in the United States came two years later with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

According to History.com, “Lincoln and the Republican party recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation, as a war measure, might have no constitutional validity once the war was over. The legal framework of slavery would still exist in the former Confederate states as well as in the Union slave states that had been exempted from the proclamation. So the party committed itself to a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.”

“The overwhelmingly Republican Senate passed the Thirteenth Amendment by more than the necessary two-thirds majority on April 8, 1864. But not until January 31, 1865, did enough Democrats in the House abstain or vote for the amendment to pass it by a bare two-thirds. By December 18, 1865, the requisite three-quarters of the states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which ensured that forever after ‘neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States.“

Guest speaker for the program in Barnwell was Pastor Sanka Davis of Rome Baptist Church in Denmark.