Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Emancipation, New Year, Haitian Independence Celebration

January 1st has various meanings for different people and nations. If you are a person of African descent living in America, it is the day that President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. That law granted immediate freedom to the enslaved in the Rebellion. I imagine that it was a day of great celebration, excitement, trepidation, and finally, uncertainty.

In the years before the proclamation, it was the time after Christmas, and slaves were usually cotton “ginning,” which is the process of separating the lint from the seed. For some slaves, January was also called “Heartbreak Day” because it was the day when fathers, sons, daughters, or mothers were hired out by the master to do contract work on other plantations.

Today, it is a celebration of the New Year – a new beginning and opportunity to start fresh with a new slate. However, we must never forget the struggle of our African ancestors. They struggled and they prayed so that we can have a better reason to celebrate the New Year. On the campus of Hampton University, a historical black college in Hampton, Virginia, stands the Emancipation Oak. The Emancipation Proclamation was read under this majestic oak (pictured above) on that day in 1863; it remains a symbol of resiliency.

My prayer is that America as a nation will begin to come to terms with that day because many are not even aware of the date or month of the proclamation. We must know the history, teach it to the young and old of every age group, and find a way to move forward together as a nation.

Happy Emancipation Day, Happy Independence Day for Haiti, and Happy New Year! God bless America. Amen.

Sources:, Wikipedia, Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter : With the Journal of Thomas B. Chaplin (1822-1890)


neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

I agree, we must know our history...not so that it makes us bitter and full of anger and hate...but to know where we're coming from, to decide where we want to go, to be.

As Bob Marley sang, emancipate yourself from mental slavery.

African-Americans have achieved so much. We here say it all the time, listing off everyone who's done well.

Stephen A. Bess said...

GG, I am very proud of those accomplishments by other African Americans. Unfortunately, much of what was accomplished has been forgotten and lost. I see it receding daily. Mary Mcleod Bethune said it best: "The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood." I would also add the character of its children and men. When I look around, there is a lack of decent character among us. The things we see as "good" and decent today doesn't even come close to who we were as a people. I feel that the desire for parents of the previous and current generation to have the "best" for their children lacked basic instruction and lessons in manners -- not all but many. Along with other hinderances, it has hurt us in a bad way. Thanks for the comment. Always a pleasure.

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Stephen, this lack of manners and basic life instructions seems to be EVERYWHERE today.

Bad behaviour has infiltrated almost every culture. Here, check this out.

Thing is, some think that because it's happening everywhere, it's okay. It's not. We all need to speak out against it.

Speaking out means that some will see you as a 'traitor' though.

Chudex's said...

A good story of the struggle.
I do not quite understand walauapun
because I did not know much about this
but this increase my knowledge.
thank you

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