Published Wednesday, January 02, 2013
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
The proclamation stated: “[O]n the first day of January ... all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
The 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s courageous action continues to resound in American culture. While the proclamation was in some ways symbolic – the document only freed slaves in areas not under Lincoln’s political control at that time – it did state formally and clearly that all people should be free.
In a sense, Lincoln was expanding on the high-minded rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson decades earlier – “that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
As 2012 gave way to 2013, many Cowetans gathered at Watch Night services in local churches. Watch Night originated with the Moravians in the early 1700s. John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, incorporated the Watch Night tradition into the denomination’s practices, and the concept has spread to other religious groups as well.
While Watch Night has always had a theme of looking inward and evaluating one’s spiritual state, the tradition took on an added layer of meaning on Dec. 31, 1862, as enslaved black Americans awaited the proclamation of freedom at midnight.
The last day of 1862 has come to be known as Freedom’s Eve.
In Coweta County, there is an ongoing observance of various events relating to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation – and its standard of freedom for all people – continues to resound in our lives a century and a half after Lincoln took his bold stand.