Timeline of Emancipation Day Celebrations in Richmond, Virginia, 1863 through Today
In 1963, one hundred years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the U.S. Congress declared January 1st to be Emancipation Proclamation Day. This was part of the national centennial observances of the Civil War in the early 1960s when African American citizens were all but excluded from officially sanctioned activities. These observances ignored 100 years of history of African Americans celebrating Emancipation Day since the end of the Civil War. Because freed blacks and slaves learned of their freedom at different times in 1865, those celebrations have varied over the years and have occurred at different times, often depending on their location within the United States.
In Richmond, Virginia, the tradition of celebrating Emancipation Day was to parade through the city on April 3rd of each year - to mark the fall of the city to Federal troops. But over time the date and manner of celebration by Richmond's blacks evolved. The leadership roles of church leaders quickly emerged and continued well into the Civil Rights era of the 20th century. During that time, the emphasis on Emancipation Day waned as the importance of the fight for equality gained momentum. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Day took a quiet backseat to memorial anniversaries. The revival of Emancipation Day celebrations in the 21st century are a reflection of the continuing importance of community involvement and the need to highlight an important part of American history.
This timeline will be an ongoing effort to document the changes of how Emancipation Day was celebrated in Richmond. This site was begun in coordination with the Year of Freedom, 2012-2013 - the VCU academic year that has been designated the “Year of Freedom” at VCU. A series of programs on both campuses will explore the meaning of emancipation and Civil War on this 150th anniversary.
Research was conducted primarily by Danielle Tarullo, a research assistant in Special Collections and Archives. The information was gathered from a variety of sources but mostly from newspaper accounts from Richmond newspapers. Chronicling America, the Library of Congress' online resource of digital versions of American newspapers, was instrumental in that research. Other sources included journal articles, monographs, and the microfilm versions of late 19th and 20th century newspapers.
Please Note: Regarding the timeline below - for those years not listed it does not necessarily mean that a celebration in Richmond did not take place. It means no documentation of a Emancipation Day event for that year has yet to be discovered.
This site can serve as a jumping point for researchers interested in African American history and the celebration of Emancipation Day activities. Additional items will be added to this site as new information is uncovered. Email Special Collections and Archives your additions to the information compiled here as well as your observations and questions. Visit this site for additional Resources on Slavery in Richmond
1860s - 1870s - 1880s - 1890s - 1900s - 1910s - 1920s - 1930s - 1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 2000s
January 1, 1863
Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
April 3, 1865
Richmond, Virginia, the Capital of the Confederacy, Falls to Union Troops.
April 3, 1865 marked the fall of Richmond and the end of the Confederacy - it was also the day that the slaves of Richmond first felt their freedom. Emancipation Day is often remembered on the first of January for the day it was signed by Lincoln. The former enslaved men and women observed Emancipation Day on the New Year occasionally, but the majority of celebrations in Richmond were held on April 3rd, also known as Evacuation Day, the day Richmond fell. [see Brown, Elsa; and Gregg Kimball, "Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond." Journal of Urban History, (1995), 3 (21), p. 296-346.]
Marie Tyler McGraw writes in At the Falls: Richmond, Virginia and Its People (1987), that the white population mostly ignored Lincoln’s presence during his visit to Richmond on April 4 and 5, 1865. She writes that for African Americans in Richmond his "presence became part of the emancipation story for the Richmond blacks."
April 3, 1866 - the first Emancipation Day celebration in Richmond
African Americans in Richmond celebrated the anniversary of their freedom on April 3, 1866. Although white Republicans insisted January 1st was the proper ‘Emancipation Day,’ the anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the city’s African Americans preferred to emphasize the date of their actual release from bondage. The voluntary militia units created by the freed black men practiced their drills on city streets in preparation for the parades. The exact route is unknown but the parade went through the city's main streets and ended on the steps of the Capitol building. - Information from Virginia Historical Society online exhibit.
Two newspaper accounts of the 1866 Emancipation Day celebration were transcribed for the web site Linking to Our Past: Documenting the African American Experience in Virginia created by the Virginia Historical Society. The accounts are below.
The Third of April and the Freedman (Richmond Whig, 27 March 1866)
The rumor that the freedmen of this city and vicinity contemplated celebrating the third of April by a procession, music, and speeches, in commemoration of their deliverance from servitude, has been the cause of considerable feeling and remark among our citizens. The associations connected with that day of terror, which not only witnessed the humiliation of the white population, but the burning of one third of the city, would have made that day an ill-chosen occasion for a jubilee by the colored inhabitants. If not so intended, it would have looked like exultation over their late masters, and would have begotten ill-feelings, and perhaps have led to consequences of an unpleasant nature. We are pleased, therefore, to learn that it has been determined not to have the contemplated celebration; or at least, to defer it to another occasion. Whether this more judicious after-thought was the result of advice from the military officers here, of old citizens in whom the freedmen have confidence, or of their own uninfluenced volition, it is an evidence of good judgment, proper feeling and correct taste, which will be appreciated by the whole community. The negroes born and raised in Virginia understand and appreciate the feelings and characters of the whites, and when not misled and imposed upon by strangers, will set discreetly and with a due regard to all the proprieties, in nine cases out of ten. Bad advice from designing and evil-disposed persons, who do not understand and do not appreciate the relations that subsist between them and the whites, is the danger to which they are most exposed. Fortunately, the colored people have much shrewdness in discriminating character, and in judging between gold and pinchbeck. They can tell a gentleman and a true man almost at a glance. They were, for some time after the great and sudden change in their condition, bewildered, almost distraught. They saw new faces at every turn, and heard from almost every tongue condemnation of their late masters. Their new acquaintances were so warm in their professions of love that they would have deceived wiser men than the negroes. Besides, it seemed unnatural and ungrateful not to listen to and trust those who had made them free. Super-added to this was a vague expectation and fear that the Southern people wanted to re-enslave them and would avail of the first opportunity that offered to do so. They have now had time to collect their wits, to cast about them, to observe men and events, to learn who are their true friends and who are not, and to consider their real interests. They have found out that they upon whom they can most implicitly rely are those among whom they were raised; and they consider carefully before they take any advice that would hazard a misunderstanding with them. It is fortunate for them that they have learned this lesson, for so long as they remain here—and they are likely to close their lives they began them—their prosperity, comfort, respectability, their very bread and meat, depend upon the continued good feeling of the whites. Those who advise them to affect equality, to assume airs, to disregard former relations, or in any way to outrage the feelings of whites, may pretend to be their friends but they are, in fact, their worst enemies.
We are glad therefore, that they have had the good sense to abandon their much talked of 3rd of April celebration. It could not have been otherwise than distasteful to the whole white community. There are other reasons besides, why such a celebration should not take place now. A gathering and procession of thousands and tens of thousands of negroes, enlivened by music, marching under banners, and excited by contact and sympathy, might, without any such purpose originally, by the slightest provocation, such as the ridicule of a thoughtless and mischievous boy, or an accidental fight between a white and colored boy, lose their self-control, presume upon their numbers, and be betrayed into excesses that would entail upon them consequences too fearful to be hazarded at all, much less for merely an unnecessary display.
In every point of view, they have acted wisely in concluding not to have their celebration. They will be just as free without it as with it, and far more comfortable.
Negro Celebration on the Third of April (Richmond Whig, 10 April 1866)
The interest and importance of the negro celebration of the third of April were chiefly derived from unpleasant possibilities, which it was feared, might result from it. It passed off, happily, without any such results, for which our thanks are not due to the authority that risked so much to accomplish so little, but to the conservatism of our population and the admirable police arrangements that were made and so efficiently carried out.
We observe that the Northern papers, those especially in the interest of the Radicals, publish the most extravagant accounts of the numbers engaged in the celebration. They say that seven or eight thousand negroes were in the procession, and that twenty-five thousand were on the streets. If this affair is of importance enough to be mentioned, it should be correctly represented. Those accustomed to estimate numbers agree in the opinion that the number in the procession ranged from five to eight hundred. Our own opinion is that it was nearer the former than the latter. It certainly did not exceed the latter. The streets were undoubtedly thronged with negroes who would have been in the streets if there had been no procession, for the day was a holiday. They were not properly a part of the pageant. It is due to the negroes to say that by far the greater number objected to the demonstration as unnecessary and improper. Nearly all who live by their labor continued at their work. The only part they took in the observances was to jeer awkward but gaudily emblazoned marshals as they careened past them, looking as if they would burst with self-importance. The well raised negro has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and a great contempt for those of his own color who put on airs. The loud and hearty guffaw was heard from the sidewalks whenever any uncommon display of vanity was made. Ass far as we could judge, most of those in the procession were the common order of negroes, or young bucks who wanted to show themselves off in their finery, or the hangers-on upon the Freedmen's Bureau. The "colored aristocracy" looked with disdain upon the whole proceeding.
The night before the celebrations a fire burned the Second African Baptist Church, the center of the parade activities, completely to the ground. The community was not deterred. They decided to carry on with festivities. White radical Republican leader Reverend J. W. Hunnicut, supported by black community leaders, saw the celebration as a platform to call for racial equality. [Brown, Elsa; and Gregg Kimball, "Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond," Journal of Urban History, (1995), 3 (21), p.305-309].
April 3, 1867
In Richmond the second Emancipation Day celebration was considered “decidedly more political.” There was a parade and the radical Republican party leaders Reverend Hunnicut and Burnham Wardwell along with popular Black leaders Peter Randolph and Lewis Lindsay spoke about the rights and responsibilities of suffrage, urging black voter registration. [Brown, Elsa; and Gregg Kimball, Mapping the Terrain of Black Richmond." Journal of Urban History, (1995), 3 (21), p.308.].
April 3, 1868
In the April 7, 1868 edition of the Richmond Dispatch it was noted that Emancipation Day celebrators paraded around the area where Richmond and Manchester were separated by the toll footbridge. “As the community parade neared the bridge some two hundred black activists separated from the larger group, crossed the bridge and refused to pay the toll.” [Randolph, Lewis A. and Gayle T. Tate, Rights for a Season: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Richmond, VA, Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2003, pg.84]
January 1, 1869
The Daily Dispatch of Richmond included a brief note on two different Emancipation Day events happening outside the city of Richmond.
January 1, 1870
The January 3, 1870 issue of The Daily Dispatch of Richmond ran an article on Emancipation Day in Richmond, shown below. A large number of societies paraded through town ending at the Governor's Mansion where Gov. Gilbert C. Walker (1833–1885) appeared to greet his "fellow citizens." At the mansion many speeches were given. There is a comment in the article that this affair was smaller than prior Emancipation Day parades, as there were only some two to three hundred marchers.
January 1, 1872
The Daily Dispatch of Richmond on January 1, 1872 included a brief comment under the Local Matters.
January 1, 1880
The Daily Dispatch on January 2, 1880:
January 4, 1881
The Daily Dispatch of Richmond on January 4, 1881 wrote that on the 4th of January the “colored element of the two cities [Norfolk and Richmond] celebrated the anniversary of emancipation today. The procession was headed by four companies of military.”
April 3, 1883
April 4th, 1883 According to The Daily Dispatch of Richmond, April 4, 1883 edition, the emancipation day “panned out poorly, the parade being a failure and but little interest being manifested.” see Chronicling America.
April 3, 1884
The Daily Dispatch of Richmond on April 4, 1883 referred to the celebration as “Evacuation-Day” in the heading. It states, “A number of colored societies paraded yesterday to celebrate emancipation. It was a small affair compared with what they used to have.” The parade was Thursday, April 3rd 1884.
Image is from Through the Lens of Time: Images of African Americans from the Cook Collection - part of VCU Libraries' Digital Collections. The Through the Lens project was a collaborative effort to digitally scan some 300 images from the Cook Collection of photographs held at the Valentine Richmond History Center. This image is labeled "Emancipation Day, 1888 -- East Main Street near 21st Southside." It shows a Richmond storefront decorated for Emancipation Day. A banner with President Lincoln's image is on display. The exact date for the celebration in 1888 in Richmond is not known.
October 15, 16, and 17, 1890
A three day celebration of Emancipation in Richmond.
Alexandria Gazette, October 15, 1890, commented on how much the “Richmond negroes” asked of their government for their emancipation celebration. They requested the Governor order the Richmond Howitzers (a white company) to fire a salute, that the Governor attend and deliver an address, that the colored schools all be closed for the three days, October 15th through October 18th (according to the Gazette; however, the Richmond Planet has the end as the 17th), of their celebration and then that the Richmond courts release all negroes contained in the jail to participate in the celebration. The paper does not state if any or all of these requests were granted.
The mayor of Richmond, James Taylor Ellyson, and Virginia governor, Philip Watkins McKinney, were present on the first day. Also in attendance was Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, the first African American to be elected to the U.S. Senate and U.S. representative John Mercer Langston, the only African American to represent Virginia in the U.S. Congress - See Celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation exhibit from the Library of Virginia's Living Memory site.
Blanche K Bruce, pictured above, born a slave outside of Farmville, Virginia in 1841. He was Republican Senator of Mississippi from 1875-1881. He died from kidney ailment in 1898. Image is in the Collection of the U.S. Senate.
John Mercer Langston was born free in Louisa, Virginia in 1829. He had been Dean of Howard University after founding their Law Department. He fought a lengthy legal battle to claim his rightful seat as a Congress Representative from 1888 to 1892. He died in 1897. Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Richmond Dispatch, January 1, 1891, page 3 - In a Year in Review article it stated that October 15, 1890 was the day of the celebrations of Emancipation proclamation. “A colored minister proposed the name of Afro-Americans for the negro race.”
January 2, 1892
In the Richmond Dispatch issue of January 3, 1892 it was noted that a crowd of 2,500 “colored people” celebrated the Emancipation proclamation on the 2nd of January in Richmond. “And with the exception of several free fights in the evening among the ‘Swampers’ the day passed quietly. The display was very creditable to the committee in charge, and was headed by Rev. L. W. Wales and Samuel Harris, the well-known colored merchant.” The paper continued that the closing activities took place “at the colored church” with the address being made by Professor Williams of the Petersburg Normal School.
January 1, 1893
The January 3, 1893 issue of The Times (of Richmond) reported, “The negroes celebrated Emancipation day with a parade and a speech-making. It was a quiet and orderly affair.”
January 1, 1894
In the January 6, 1894 issue of the Richmond Planet: The Emancipation day celebrations had been held in Lexington, at Drummonds Hall on January 1st, 1894 with the Reverend W. T. Johnson, B. D. as the orator. The January 27 issue of the Richmond Planet in the editorial section stated the "much beloved Rev. E. W. Williams" had passed away since the last emancipation celebration.
January 1, 1895
The January 5, 1895 issue of the Richmond Planet reported that the emancipation celebration was held on January 1, 1895 at the True Reformer’s Hall with a large crowd and prayer offered by the Rev. James H. Holmes, of First African Baptist Church. The proclamation was read by Miss Maria Anderson and the music was "sung to great response by Madame Mildred A. Cross." An original poem was read by Professor D. Webster Davis. Madame Rosa K. Jones gave a performance on the piano. Editor John Mitchell, Jr. (pictured below) discussed “The Negro’s case in Equity” and Mr. Charles Alexander, the editor of Boston Mass., Monthly Review spoke as well. The evening ended with a speech by Mr. D. F. Batts speech. The same officers were re-elected for next years festivities. The parade route was not given.
On January 12, 1895, the Richmond Planet also reportedthat the Emancipation meeting held on January 1, 1895 and was well attended at the Rev. James’ Church with principle speakers were Mr. R. T. Hill, a cashier of True Reformers’ Bank, Rev. Archer Ferguson, Rev. Daniel James and Rev. C. A. Edwards of Dinwiddie Co., with music by the S. S. and the choir. The Rev. A. H. Mayo returned from Baltimore to preach as well.
April 9, 1896
In the April 25, 1896 issue of the Richmond Planet it was reported that the Emancipation Day celebration was held April 9th in Blue Ridge Springs, a day set aside for the Good Samaritans of Virginia to celebrate. Professor Zach Hunt of Hollins, Virginia was the "most loved orator of the day."
January 16, 1897
January 16, 1897, Richmond Planet, the Emancipation Association celebrated emancipation day with a parade in Norfolk Virginia.
January 1, 1898 and October 1, 1898
Two celebrations in one year.
December 25 1897 issue of the Richmond Planet wrote that those participating in the parade would assemble at Third and Leigh at 12:00. The article notes that those participating should wear white gloves and whatever emblems or banners they choose. At 1:00 the line of parade would move to Leigh Street to Brook Avenue, from there to Broad then to Sixth, Main, Nineteenth, back to Broad to the First Baptist Church, Corner of College and Broad St. where exercises were to be held. John Mitchell, Jr. was the Chief Marshall and W. Isaac Johnson was the President of the Citizen’s Committee. Invocation was by Rev. James H. Holmes, of First African Baptist Church. Music was “My Country” and the reading of the Proclamation was to be by Miss Lizzy Tinsley. Johnson was to make the introductory remarks. Master of Ceremonies was the Rev. W. F. Graham. Oration by Professor G. W. Hayes, President of Virginia Seminary followed by an original poem by O. M. Steward.
In the October 1,1898 issue of the Richmond Planet it wrote that though there was too much rain, there was still a parade for Emancipation Day with a well-received address by a Dr. Haygood titled “Progress of the Colored Race”. It also states that the “Banquet, Literary and Musical Entertainment given in Germany Hall was largely attended.”
January 1, 1899
Richmond Planet, October 1, 1898, noted that a request was written for “Every company in the City” to appoint a committee of three to help make arrangements for the Emancipation parade to be held on January 1, 1899.
January 1, 1900
The January 2, 1900 issue of The Times had a brief statement reporting that is was a special Emancipation Day, celebrated in Raleigh, North Carolina on January 1, 1890. The paragraph stated that the day was a success despite the bitter cold. On page three of the same issue there is an article about the speech given by Booker T. Washington - see below:
January 1, 1901
Richmond Planet, January 5, 1901 - Emancipation Day was celebrated on January 1, 1901, a Tuesday.
January 2, 1902
In the January 2, 1902 issue of The Times it was noted that Emancipation Day was celebrated in Richmond on the 2nd of January, a Thursday, with a parade “of the colored organizations, which, while highly creditable, was not so long as usual. The day was cold.”
January 1, 1903
The January 2 and 4 1903 issues of the Richmond Dispatch ran articles about Emancipation Day celebrations in regional Virginia. The first concerned the events that took place in Suffolk, Virginia. The second article from the January 4 issue may or may not be about Richmond. The page discusses regional affairs, but merely states "this section of country" for the location of celebrations.
January 23rd, 1904, Richmond Planet included a letter to the editor from the First Baptist Church of Suffolk, VA relating their sense of insult at the considered slanderous remark made to their pastor, Rev. W. W. Gaines D. D., on Emancipation Day, January 1, 1904, in Macedonia A.M. E. Church by Jas. H. Hayes, Secretary and Attorney of the Negro Industrial and Educational Association of Virginia
April 3, 1905
The parade is shown here marching at 10th and Main Streets with the Shafer Building at the corner and the old Custom House/Richmond Post Office building in the background. It was one of the few buildings to survive the evacuation fire of 1865. To the right of that building is the Mutual Assurance Society building.
In the April 4, 1905 issue of theTimes Dispatch it informed its readers that the parade took 20 minutes to pass any given point while nearly every African American in Richmond and the surrounding area participated or watched. The crowds centered in the ball park where the orators addressed the large following. Rev. T. A. Green spoke and the principal speaker was Dr. Webster Davis, whose oration was "loudly applauded." The event closed with a banquet of the leaders at Price’s Hall and True Reformers’ Hall where "a colored opera company" performed. The paper does comment on a fight that occurred between a party of “disorderly negroes” on Cary St. between Seventh and Eighth Streets. Four individuals were arrested and taken to Second Station. The paper goes on to write that “this was the only affair of the kind that marred one of the largest negro demonstrations the city ever saw.”
In the April 8, 1905, Richmond Planet it notes, “The colored people of this city celebrated the fortieth year of their emancipation on last Monday [the 3rd of April] with a large parade. Excursionists from other cities swelled the crowd and five bands of music mustered into service. The gathering was orderly. The day was an ideal one and the exercises were conducted at the Broad St. Base-ball park. The grand-stand gave way and partly collapsed, but this inconvenience was only temporary. Rev. D. W. Davis, A.M., was orator of the day and his effort was an eloquent one. “Major J. B. Johnson, and the military leader and tactician was Chief Marshall and he handled the line with skill and ability. The line of march was shortened considerably and the Church-Hill route was abandoned. Mr. J. C. Randolph was president and Lawyer J. Thos. Hewin, secretary. The affair was a success and the best of good-feeling prevailed. Capt. Benjamin Scott, who was elected president during the early stages of the affair was in a carriage and many were disappointed at not seeing him on horse-back.”
January 1, 1906
The people of Suffolk, Virginia and surrounding areas came to Richmond to celebrate Emancipation Day with a parade, according the Richmond Dispatch, January 2, 1906. There were addresses, unique floats, “some bearing designs emblematic of liberty.”
April 2, 1907
From the April 3, 1907 issue of the Times Dispatch (of Richmond):
“The colored people of Richmond will celebrate Emancipation Day this morning with a military parade and appropriate religious services. The City School Board has allowed a holiday in all the colored school, and a large turn out of local and country negroes is assured. The line of march for the parade will be from Clay Street, out Second to Baker, Baker to Brook Avenue, Brook Avenue to Leigh, down Leigh to Tenth, Tenth to Broad, down Broad to Eighteenth, Eighteenth to Main, Main to Ninth, Ninth to Broad, Broad to the Baseball grounds. The following program will be observed: Prayer by chaplain, Rev. R. V. Peyton; music by Cable Band of Petersburg; address, master of ceremonies W. T. Johnson; address J. C. Randolph; music by White Rose Band of Richmond; singing national anthem; music St. Joseph’s Band, oration, Rev. Thomas Green of Smithfield VA; music by band. Formation of line march to Broad Street Park, where a concert will be given and a free dinner to the aged and G.A.R. veterans”
The April 6, 1907 issue of the Richmond Planet, page 8, stated that the celebration held on April 2, 1907 did not equal the year before, citing the lack of interest from the "colored citizens of Richmond" as the reason.
January 1, 1908
January 4, 1908, Richmond Planet paper had a small quote from the Richmond Times-Dispatch which stated that an impassioned negro orator declared at a gathering “of his people” at Richmond, Virginia commented on the greatness of Virginians. The article does not specify if this is an Emancipation Day celebration.
No known celebration this year but in the December 18, 1909 issue of the Richmond Planet it was documented that Senator Depew [most likely U. S. Senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew (1834-1928)] introduced a bill on the 13th of December providing the government participate in “an Afro-American exposition in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of emancipation.” His bill proposed a $250,000 budget for participation and for working with the Emancipation Exposition Company of Savannah, Ga. Oon another page of that same issue a statement that the year 1913 will be the fiftieth anniversary “of the freedom of the race, and plans are under way for a great celebration and exposition by the race, chiefly to show to the world the wonderful progress of the race since its Emancipation.” Despite this planning, there is no documentation as to a celebration located yet for this year..
April 4, 1910
Richmond Planet, April 9, 1910 noted that Emancipation Day was observed Monday, April 4, 1910 in Richmond by two organizations, both of which had parades. One was led by Mr. J.C. Randolph and the other by Mr. James C. Smith. The former had the bands of Petersburg in his parade since the mayor of Petersburg would not grant his people the permit to parade. Mr. Smith allegedly hired out all the bands in Richmond, and carried his marchers to Fairmount Park at 21st and Fairmount. “Both seemed to have a good time, although both parades would have made only one fairly good showing.”
April 3, 1911
The Times Dispatch on April 4, 1911 noted that Emancipation Day was held the prior day, the 3rd of April, at Ball Park, where Rev. E. H. Hunter of the Third A.M. E. Church gave a message on worthy citizenship.
In the September 28, 1912 issue of the Richmond Planet it was noted that “Colored population celebrates its fifty years of freedom in New York, anniversary of September 23, celebrations at St. Marks.” The noted speaker was Rev. W. P. Hayes. Also held in Washington D.C. at the Metropolitan A.M. E. Church were celebrations that lasted Sunday through Thursday. On Monday President Taft spoke. No known celebration in Richmond.
In the January 1, 1913 issue of the Richmond Planet it reported that Pennsylvania passed a proposal slating twenty thousand dollars to be used for the fiftieth anniversary Emancipation Celebration in September to be held in Philadelphia.
October 18th, 1913, The Richmond Planet printed a letter to the editor from Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute stating his wishes for Emancipation Day’s fiftieth anniversary to be held October 19th through October 26th.
No documented celebration for Emancipation Day in Richmond.
In the April 4, 1914 issue of the Richmond Planet reported the Knights of Pythias and the Courts of Calanthe celebrate an anniversary. The Rev. W. H. Skipwith is pictured. More than three thousand people assembled in the City Auditorium. The paper does not specify if this was related to Emancipation Day.
January 6th, 1917, The Richmond Planet: “Emancipation Celebrations were held in Danville Virginia Monday January 1st, 1917 at the Calvary Baptist Church. President P. H. Doswell presided. Rev. Dr. Cooper gave the invocation with a solo by Mr. P. L. Lee. Mr. S. B. Noble was orator, who was re-elected as president of the emancipation association for next term.” There was also mentioned that a solo from Carmen was sung by Mrs. Carolyne Harrison. No documented celebration for Emancipation Day in Richmond.
Only mentions of anniversary programs for the Knights of Pythias and Courts of Calanthe are found in the Planet. No direct correlation to Emancipation Day was made.
In the October 10, 1922 issue of The Richmond Planet it was noted that In Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Temple at 11th and R Streets Northwest, the 60th anniversary of the publishing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln was “fittingly celebrated.” This was organized by the Colored American Forward Movement of the Frelinghuysen University. Among those delivering addresses was Rev. E.D.W. Jones, Mrs. Mary B. Owen, and Professor Silas Harris, president of the National Negro Education Association. There was no report of a celebration here in Richmond.
Only mentions of anniversary programs for the Knights of Pythias and Courts of Calanthe are found in the Planet. No direct correlation to Emancipation Day was made.
January 5, 1924 issue of The Richmond Planet informed the public that the Emancipation Day festivities were held in Franklin County, Virginia on January 1st of 1924 at Cool Springs Baptist Church. The address was given by Attorney J. Thomas Newsome of Newport News, Virginia.
Only mentions of anniversary programs for the Knights of Pythias and Courts of Calanthe are found in the Planet. No direct correlation to Emancipation Day was made. here was no report of a celebration here in Richmond.
In the April 9, 1927 issue of The Richmond Planet it was reported that on Sunday, April 4th of 1927 Charles S. Morris Jr. spoke at the City Auditorium to a crowd of over three thousand people, at least 500 of whom were white, on the subject “The Measure of a Man.” While the paper stated that he received general ovation at the end of his oration it is never made clear if this is related to Emancipation Day.
January 2, 1928
The Richmond Planet, on January 7, 1928 ran a front page headline reading, “Big Emancipation Program Held Here”. It went on to report, “’Some Nails Fastened in Sure Places on Which to Hang the Glory of a Race’ was the subject of a great Emancipation Day oration delivered by Rev. Dr. L. M. Pleasants of Johnstown, Pa., at Leigh Street Memorial M.E. Church last Sunday night [January 2nd]. A packed house witnessed the exercises which were planned by Rev. R. M. Williams, energetic pastor of the church. Lawyer J. R. Pollard presided and lawyer W. F. Denny read the Emancipation Proclamation. Music was furnished by the Hardy Brothers Orchestra (a very prominent band during the 1930's amongst African Americans) and the Choir of the church, Miss Irma Adams singing a beautiful solo. The offering was in the charge of E. F. Johnson and R. C. Mitchell. Mr. C. V. Kelly of the St. Luke Herald made a splendid address pertaining to the civil status of the Negroes of Richmond. The principle address was by Dr. Pleasants. It was all that a perfect oration should be. Dr. Pleasants is conducting revival services at Leigh Street Memorial M. E. Church and is quite favorable here now.” While the article does not say, this would have been the 65th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
January 5, 1930
In the January 4, 1930 issue ofThe Richmond Planet put on the front page the announcement that the Emancipation Proclamation services were to be held January 5th, Sunday, 1930 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, located at the corner of Leigh and Judah Streets. The address was by Rev. William H. Stokes, PhD. [paster of Ebenezer and husband of Orra Brown Stokes]. The master of ceremonies was Commander George Walker, U.S. War veteran and the devotionals were delivered by another U.S. War veteran, Mr. George M. Jackson. The opening hymn was “Holy Holy” which was then followed by “Star Spangled Banner,” announcement of Emancipation and the National Negro Anthem which was sung by the choir and congregation.
In the June 16, 1934 issue of The Richmond Planet informed its readers that the Knights of Pythias and the Courts of Calanthe have convention programs on June 19th, the date known later as Juneteenth. There was no report of a celebration here in Richmond.
January 1, 1937 - Participation by Rev. Brown of Richmond's Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.
The Richmond Planet ran an editorial in the January 2, 1937 issue as follows:
“The 74th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation finds the beneficiaries there under at grips with serious problems.
Discriminations, disfranchisement, lynching, Jim Crowism, and peonage dog his footsteps like baying hounds during the days of chattel slavery.
Opinions vary as to the progress made by Negro Americans towards the solutions of these problems. Be that as it may, the fact looms that they still remain major problems. There must be a way out, however, and Negro Americans must find that way assisted by the sympathetic and liberal white Americans. The leadership among the group should quit bickering, jealousies, and strife and work together to affect a program which will lead to a solution of these problems which affect the life and well-being of the race.
A solemn resolution to close ranks and to formulate such a program would be a fitting observance of the 74th anniversary of the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Later in the same issue on page 10 there is mention of Dr. A. W. Brown as the Emancipation Day orator in Durham, North Carolina on January 1st, 1937. Brown was the pastor of 6th Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.There was no report of a celebration here in Richmond.
The January 1st, 1938 issue of The Richmond Planet ran the same editorial as the year before, changing it to the 75th anniversary. There was no report of a celebration here in Richmond.
January 1, 1940
January 6th, 1940, The Richmond Afro-American (The Planet had been bought the previous year by the Afro-American of Baltimore, Maryland) reported that Emancipation Day was held on January 1, 1940 in Richmond Virginia at 6th Mount Zion Baptist Church as part of a New Year’s observance.
Charles H. Houston, former Dean of Howard University and special counsel to the NAACP, gave an oration pertaining to the war and how it would aid in breaking the barriers of segregation. “Decline in the prestige of the British Empire because of European warfare will aid in bringing new and fuller emancipation to colored people in the United States and elsewhere”, he stated.
Houston spoke to the need to end segregation of schools, but that it could wait twenty-five to fifty years for other priorities so long as black schools were given the same advantages as white schools. W. F. Richardson, president of the NAACP youth council, read the Emancipation Proclamation.
January 8, 1946
The Afro-American, January 5th, 1946, sited Professor John M. Moore of Virginia Union University as the principle speaker for the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The event was to be held in the Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond on January 8, 1946. The affair was sponsored by the Richmond Civic Council and their president, Dr. W. L. Ransome, was in participation of the event. The paper also stated that he would be making his annual report on the activities. Music was provided by the choir of the church, where Rev. Dr. C. C. Scott was pastor.
January 6, 1948
January 1, 1949 - with Dr. Vernon Johns on "The Downfuall of Dr. Douglas Freeman's Idol."
The Richmond Afro-American, January 1, 1949, announced that Dr. Vernon Johns, former president of the Virginia Seminary and College, was the principle speaker for the Emancipation Day celebrations held at the Fifth Street Baptist Church on Saturday, January 1st of 1949. The event was sponsored by the Richmond Civic Council. The subject of Dr. Johns oration was “The Downfall of Dr. Douglas Freeman’s Idol.” The president of the local and State NAACP organizations, Dr. J. M. Tinsley, presented the speaker. Kearney C. Manning, a local teacher, delivered the welcome address and Robert L. Taylor installed the council officers. Taylor was the pastor of Second Baptist Church of South Richmond. Dr. L. W. Ransome presided. Mrs. Odessa E. Jenkins read the Emancipation Proclamation and the devotionals were led by Rev. J. M. Griffin with remarks given by the pastor of the host church, Dr. C. C. Scott.
The April 7, 1951 issue of The Afro-American mentioned the funeral of co-ed Marie Faldon, whose memorial service had over 1800 in attendance and was held at the Fifth Street Baptist church. It is believed that this tragedy superceded any Emancipation Day events.
During the 1950’s Emancipation Day celebrations seemed to have taken a backseat to the current events of the time, such as the Korean War and especially the Civil Rights movement. There is mention in the Afro-American in the June 21, 1952 issue that President Truman gave a commencement speech at Howard University on the “New Emancipation.” There were no further mentions of Emancipation Day celebrations in the midst of the Civil Rights activities until 1959.
January 1, 1959
In the January 3, 1959 issue of The Afro-American relayed the information that the Richmond Civic Council sponsored an Emancipation Day Program at the 6th Mount Zion Baptist Church on January 1, 1959. The Reverend H. G. Hairston, the grandmaster of the Virginia Lodge of Masons, was the principle speaker. The program began with a musical prelude from the church’s choir.
January 1, 1960
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. takes part in Emancipation Day event in Richmond.
January 1, 1960 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in Richmond at the Emancipation Day rally organized by Petersburg minister Wyatt Tee Walker. Walker was also the president of the Petersburg NAACP. The program was “Second Annual Pilgrimage of Prayer for Public Schools.” The Afro-American describes the day in detail. The rally began at the Mosque [now the Landmark Theater] where King delivered the keynote address. Following his speech, King led the rallying crowd on a two mile march to the state capitol. See the January 7, 1960 issue of the Richmond Afro-American.
January 5th, 1963, The Afro-American reported that the Reverend K. Hall lead the Emancipation Day celebrations in Greenville, North Carolina. The article is written in the first person by Richmond's Reverend Elijah L. Brown who traveled to hear the great orator.
January 1, 1965
The Afro-American reported on January 1, 1965 that at the Fourth Baptist Church at 2800 P Street there was a celebration of the church's centennial observation, which included an Emancipation Proclamation reading. The program was held on New Year's day. Reverend Dr. Robert L. Taylor was the presiding pastor.
The Afro-American noted on January 1, 1966 that an Emancipation Day program being held in Birmingham, Alabama, at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This would have been incredibly poignant given the state of Civil Rights in Alabama at this time. It is reasonable to infer from this that the year 1966 is another example of the African American citizens of Richmond, Virginia, as well as other locales, traveling to attend the more politically important event to rally together.
The Afro-American on April 1, 1967 that on April 3rd there was to be held a memorial for the founder of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church at the church. .
In the April 4, 1968 issue of the The Richmond Afro-American Muhammad Ali, pictured below, spoke at Virginia Union University and led a parade down Lombardy to the Maggie Walker High School. He gave a speech titled, "Getting Knowledge to Benefit Self". The paper doesn't state if this was specifically in reference Emancipation Day. Ali was in the midst of his legal battle with the U.S. Army, and therefore earned his money through speaking engagements on college campuses, so it is not safe to assume this is connected to Emancipation Day [see Muhammad Ali timeline for more information]. There is a reference in the paper of other Emancipation Day plans that had been canceled. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was supposed to be in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia for the "Poor Peoples" campaign. It would have been King's second Emancipation Day celebrations in Richmond. King canceled his whirlwind tour of Virginia due to his involvement in the strike of sanitation workers in Memphis, where he was assassinated on this same day, April 4, 1968.
The Richmond Afro American, April 5, 1969 issue notes the commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held on April 4, 1969 with a march through downtown Richmond and a prayer at the Capitol.
The Richmond Afro-American article in their April 5, 1970 edition notes that a memorial service for the Late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was held at Morris Street Baptist Church and sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
June 17, 2000
The Virginia Unity Day Juneteenth Rally 2000, a celebration of African American culture, was scheduled for Saturday, June 17, 2000 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Senator Henry L. Marsh, III (D-Va) was the convener for this event which was endorsed by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Virginia State NAACP, the Virginia State Unit SCLC, the Baptist General Convention, the Richmond Crusade for Voters, Richmond Branch NAACP, Urban League of Greater Richmond, and the Baptist Minister's Conference of Richmond & Vicinity.
Juneteenth is more frequently associated with Galveston Texas. The African Americans had been kept in slavery beyond the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation until Union soldiers took over the town and on June 19th informed everyone of their freedom, much like Evacuation day or April 3rd in Richmond. Today Juneteenth has become a time to recognize the achievements and the trials of African Americans.
Pre-rally events included an evening worship service on Friday, June 16 and a 9 a.m. health forum on Saturday, June 17 at Metropolitan African American Baptist Church (Richmond, VA). A Pre-rally Slave Walk was also scheduled on Saturday, June 17 at 10 a.m. The main event, held 6/17/00 VA on Virginia State Capitol grounds in Richmond, featured motivational speakers, dancers, vocalists, information vendors (on health and fitness, financial planning, business development, etc.), a gospel concert, and art expo featuring original African American art.
April 16 and June 24, 2007
April 16th 2007 was Emancipation Day (Source: chowhound.chow.com/topics/392112)
June 24 2007 was the Juneteenth Freedom Celebration, held in Richmond’s Manchester Dock, hosted by the Elegba Folklore Society. Ceremonies and talks, with performances, food and art occurred on the south of the James River at the end of Maury Street. The event finished with a torch-lit walk on the Trail of Enslaved Africans, with the recently unveiled Reconciliation Statue on the tour, which ended at 16th and Broad Streets, the home of the Burial Ground for Negroes where a “healing the city” ceremony was held.
June 20-21, 2008
Juneteenth was presented by Elegba Folklore Society June 20-21, 2008 in Richmond Virginia. Founder and Artistic Director Janine Bell said that the events were themed towards “social change in a context of heritage and cultural identity,” with live music, a marketplace, dance and crafts amongst the activities held at Hyperlink Cafe, 814 W. Grace St. The hip-hop group Dead Prez performed Friday night, and Saturday night there was a torch-lit walk along the Richmond Slave Trail that ended with a healing ceremony at a Negro burial ground.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 20, 2008. Article by Tammie Smith/RTD staff writer.
June 20, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009 the Elegba Folklore Society and the Richmond Slave Trail Commission supported the celebrations from 3:00 pm to midnight at the Manchester Dock
Source: Style Weekly
June 19, 2010
Elegba Folklore Society presented Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010 on June 19. The historic Manchester Dock, a port of entry in Richmond for Africans being brought into the Americas to be sold into slavery, is the event’s site beginning at 3 pm. The theme was "Independence! Freedom Stories in Ghana and Virginia." The Manchester Dock is on the south side of the James River at the end of Maury Street.
The Future of Richmond's Past wrote the following about the events:
"This commemoration of Juneteenth National Freedom Day featured a full palette of performers and speakers, who did present according to the theme, including Plunky & Oneness, internationally recognized for their popular brand of African world music, and Legacy of Weyanoke, an a cappella vocal ensemble specializing in the songs and stories of the African Diaspora. Legacy of Weyanoke take their audiences on a journey that pays tribute to that taken by the African ancestors, including those who established in 1619 the first known African settlement in an English-speaking colony in North America. The journey includes countless encounters with Native Americans, who became coworkers, allies, friends and family members.
Dr. Shawn O. Utsey chairs the African American studies department at Virginia Commonwealth University and gave the keynote remarks. Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010 welcomed international guests, His Excellency, Mr. Daniel Ohene Agyekum, Embassy of the Republic of Ghana in Washington DC and enstooled Ashanti priest, Nana Kwabena Faheem Ashanti. The Bright Butterflies, ages 2–4 years old presented black history vignettes and song, and the Richmond Youth Jazz Guild performed. Of course, Elegba Folklore Society’s African dancers and drummers provided an essential cultural context for the day during their performance. This event also included a community African dance class, The Freedom Market which featured food, information exhibits, art and imports along with special engagement for children.
Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010, culminated in the Annual Torch Lit Walk on the Trail of Enslaved Africans, about 8pm, led by Elegba Folklore Society’s performers with African dance and music and staged interpretations at the Dock, at the Canal Walk’s Turning Basin, the Reconciliation Statue, at the site of the infamous Lumpkin's Jail in Shockoe Bottom and at the African Burial Ground (Burial Ground for Negroes) at 16th and Broad Streets. The Richmond Slave Trail Commission is marking these significant sites for acknowledgment and education.
A companion exhibition, Independence! Ghanaian Traditional & Contemporary Art, was on view in Elegba Folklore Society’s Cultural Center, downtown at 1st and Broad Streets, through July 31 in a continued observance of Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010. This exhibition showed acrylic paintings by several artists, artifacts, textiles and jewelry.
Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010 was a family event. It commemorated the Juneteenth holiday known as Juneteenth National Freedom Day by remembering the impact of the trade of enslaved Africans in Virginia, during the 246 years between 1619 and 1865 and its legacy. A constructive way to pay homage to enslaved Africans upon whose backbone Virginia was sustained from the twelfth year following the English settlement, Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010 re-examines the legacy of their contribution and their forfeiture. It provides a cultural framework for building bridges of understanding. Admission was free.
During Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration 2010 Nana Kwabena Faheem Ashanti performed traditional rituals and ceremonies to pay homage to our ancestors."
April 16, 2011
Richmond acknowledged Virginia's involvement in the Civil War with the second annual Civil War and Emancipation Day on April 16th 2011. Events took place from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm with exhibits, tours, discussions, and entertainment, ending at Lumpkin’s Jail, 14th and Main Streets, Court End and Jackson Ward, Historic Tredegar, and Boulevard Campus at 200 N. Boulevard.
April 14, 2012
Richmond today celebrated its third annual Civil War and Emancipation Day to commemorate the end of slavery and Richmond’s role in the “War Between the States.”
Tours, speakers and demonstrations were held throughout the city, which served as the capital of the Confederacy. Some museums offered free admission.
Civil War and Emancipation Day was hosted by The Future of Richmond’s Past, a collaboration of organizations dedicated to preserving Richmond’s historical legacy.