When is Emancipation Day?
Emancipation Day is a holiday that commemorates President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation to abolish slavery on September 22, 1862. While the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t officially ordered until January 1st of the following year, this was the first step towards officially freeing slaves.
Slavery was widespread in the United States prior to the Civil War. This was especially the case in southern states, where slaves worked on plantations. One of the leading causes of the Civil War was over slavery – the majority of people in the south felt it was their right to keep slaves, and threatened to break apart from the country and form their own nation.
President Lincoln was a lifetime supporter of slavery abolishment, which was a belief passed down from his own parents. Not only was it important to him that slavery be abolished in the Union, but he was also concerned about slaves in the rebellion states of the Old South. Plans for issuing an Emancipation Proclamation would abolish slavery in the whole country, even though the two sides were still at war. The exception were a few southern states not found to be in rebellion. Slavery was officially banned with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution in December 1865.
A precursor to the Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862. It was a monumental day that led to the official Emancipation Proclamation just a few months later. Most slaves in the United States were freed at the time, and many joined the army where they would get paid for their services.
Gallia County in southeastern Ohio remains at the epicenter of Emancipation Day, as this was the area where President Lincoln made his famous 1862 speech. In fact, Gallia County has celebrated Emancipation Day since September 22, 1863. This was the same year that the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, although the Civil War was still fought for another two years.
In honor of emancipation and of President Lincoln’s efforts to abolish slavery, Ohio regards Emancipation Day as a state holiday every September 22nd. It’s not a public holiday, so government institutions still remain open if the holiday falls on a working day. Other states celebrate Emancipation Day on the same traditional date, although some areas observe the holiday during different times of the year. For example, some states regard Emancipation Day as the final date in which all remaining slaves were set free on Juneteenth on June 19th, 1865.
Emancipation Day is celebrated as the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States. The largest celebrations are held in southeastern Ohio, where the preliminary proclamation was made back in 1862. Visitors frequent Gallia County every September 22nd to pay tribute. Tourists and residents alike also participate in related festivals and reenactment plays. Schools across the country may participate through a history lesson about the Emancipation Proclamation, while others may write essays. While not a national holiday, Emancipation Day is an important date in our history that is regarded as a turning point in the country that would change it for the better.