Today is Charleston’s first Emancipation Day, three years after former President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. In the heart of the former Confederacy and accompanied by the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, thousands, many of whom are Baptists, participate in the parade, listen to speeches, and eat barbecue.
The South Carolina Leader describes the scene:
“The throng of people followed the procession until they came to the place of the barbecue. There must have been an area of some ten acres of ground covered by the densely crowded mass of humanity. The scene, as viewed from the speakers’ stand, was grand and sublime. As far as the eye could reach was one vast living, moving panorama.”
Charleston is not alone. Throughout the South especially, in towns large and small, this first emancipation day after the end of the war is celebrated. Human freedom, the promise of America’s founding, has finally been realized — albeit incompletely. In the months and years to come a great struggle for equal civil rights for African Americans unfolds, the equality of the races fiercely opposed by many whites.
Even worse, many white Southern Baptists continue teaching that God’s will for the black race is slavery. In 1871 South Carolinian Southern Baptist J. L. Reynolds declares that the Southern Baptist Convention believes in black slavery as strongly as ever, that it had “no confession to make” and “no repentance to offer” for its pro-slavery views.
Emancipation is real, but the war for freedom is far from over.
Sources: “‘The Day We Celebrate:’ Emancipation Day in Charleston, Then and Now,” LowCountryAfricana, December 31, 2012 (link); Daniel W. Stowall, Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877, New York: Oxford, 1998, 202 (link)