FAMU Celebrates Emancipation Proclamation
By Courtney Harris
Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863; however the historic document was not read in Florida until May 20, 1865.
In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, guests gathered on the sunny lawn of the Meek-Eaton Black Archives on the campus of Florida A&M University to witness the artistic celebration.
The ceremony was also an unveiling for the Black Archives exhibit, “Patchworks to Freedom: Tapestries and Tales of African-American Families.”
Leon County commissioner, Bill Proctor, served as the master of ceremonies for The Dawn of Freedom Celebration on May 19.
“We are here to celebrate the nation’s choice to ‘stand fast in liberty,’” Proctor said.
Dr. Valencia Matthews, Dean of the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities at FAMU, quickly reminded everyone of the occasion’s importance by saying, “One hundred and fifty years ago, the only way we could have escaped the heat was by running. So I’m grateful.”
Proctor kept the crowd enthused, despite the heat, with a chant of, “One … two … three … FREEDOM!”
Museum of Florida History volunteer, Peter Cowdrey, read excerpts of the Emancipation Proclamation accompanied by violinist Samantha Crawford, a Lincoln High School student.
After the reading, Proctor said, “It took another 244 years for those monumental words to be conveyed into the body of politics.”
Those monumental words may not have come to fruition without the many African-Americans who fought on the front lines of the Civil War. In dedication to those brave men and women, the 2nd Infantry Regiment U.S. Colored Troops Reenactment Unit and Living History Association spoke on their strength and the courage throughout the war for freedom.
Through additional live performances and spoken word the Dawn of Freedom celebration aimed to depict the struggle, the triumphs and the progress leading up to and following the Emancipation Proclamation.
“You look at the news and it could be so easy to feel hopeless, but events like this remind you of how far we have come,” Tallahassee resident James Jackson said. “But we still have a long way to go.”