The Emancipation Association of Savannah, Georgia and Vicinity has scheduled a worship service in celebration of the 158th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. The virtual service will take place at 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. January 1 and will include preaching, singing, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, remarks by leading city and county officials, and special recognitions. The Honorable Van R. Johnson, Mayor, and the Honorable Al Scott, Chairman, will make remarks.
Rev. Chester Ellis, whose contributions to the association and to the community are immeasurable, will receive a special award on the eve of his inauguration as chairman of the Chatham County Commission. Bishop Matthew M. Odum, pastor of Temple of Glory Community Church, will serve as speaker. Former mayor of the City, the Honorable Edna Branch Jackson, will offer a special tribute to the late civil rights icon, Mr. Westley W. Law. Those scheduled to make remarks also include senatorial candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Churches whose pastors have agreed to enable the service to be broadcast on their social media sites and are therefore co-sponsors of the ·celebration include: Temple of Glory Community Church, Bishop Matthew M. Odum; Branded Heart International, Rev. Kenneth Rouche; St. Philip A.M.E. Church, Rev. Jai S. Haithco Sr.; St. Philip Monumental A.M.E. Church, Rev. Dr. Bernard Clarke; Royal Church of Christ, Bishop Willie Ferrell; St. Paul Baptist Church, Rev. Chester A. Ellis; St. Paul C.M.E. Church, Rev. DaHenri R. Thurmond Sr., and others.
Historical Roots The Emancipation Proclamation Service follows Watch Night Service held each year on New Year’s Eve. The Watch Service began with the Moravians in Europe and was brought to America by the Methodists. The service became historically important to African Americans in 1863 as congregations gathered to engage in prayerful watching and waiting in hopes that their· prayers would influence President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
A Preliminary Proclamation had already been signed by Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, declaring that if the Confederate states in rebellion had not returned to the Union by January 1, 1863, he would sign a declaration freeing all slaves in those states in rebellion against the union. When President Lincoln did, in fact, sign the Emancipation there was unrestrained jubilation expressed among former slaves whose chains would now be removed. The jubilation, however would be short-lived. Following Reconstruction former slaves found themselves with practically no legal protection and few reliable means to start making a decent living for themselves. The Emancipation Proclamation was a declaration, then, that had no discernible means for implementation or enforcement. The legacy of this latter fact is still evident in the lives of so many throughout America. And yet, as we observe the 158th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, freedom loving people throughout America still celebrate.
Savannah roots In Savannah, roots pertaining to the history and heritage of Africa n Americans run deep. As we are blessed to be present for this 158th celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, (albeit virtually because of corvid 19), we honor those whose prayers, hopes and dreams helped to sustain them in earlier times and greatly inspire us today. Through the years they dared to hope, to strive, to struggle, and yes, to celebrate. We are especially inspired by people such as Pastor Matthew Southall Brown, Sr., who, as a boy, marched in Emancipation Day parades in Savannah. Pastor Brown, nearly 100 now, is director emeritus the Emancipation Association of Savannah, Georgia and Vicinity and continues to encourage us onward. So, while we seek to make our contribution to the rich heritage of which we are proud, each day we become increasingly more aware that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, those whose dreams were deferred and whose hopes were dashed. Yet they celebrated and encouraged us to celebrate.
James E. Taylor is
Director of Association
Activities For the Emancipation Association of
Savannah and Vicinity