About the proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation consists of two executive orders issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The first one, issued Sept. 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by Jan. 1, 1863. The second order, issued Jan. 1, 1863, named 10 specific states where it would apply.
Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy” under Article II, section 2 of the Constitution.
Lincoln’s announcement has been celebrated for years by members of the Liberty County community who carry slavery in their ancestry, and this year’s remembrance was anchored by a call to embrace change with a spirit of unity.
Guest pastor Hermon Scott of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church in Walthourville said history is often recorded with interpretation. He said though the reasons for proclamation are analyzed and debated by historians, one fact remains: “Lincoln signed it!” he said.
Guest speaker Pastor S. Dyann Robertson asked those in attendance to reflect on the past and look into the future with the words of Charles Dickens in mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Robertson said if her forebears were alive today, they might have the same paradoxical sentiments about the current times, particularly within the black community.
“We find we are living in the best of times … I have found that within 36 hours, you can be anywhere in the world you want to be,” Robertson said. “Our foreparents, coming in the bowels of slave ships, it did not take them 36 hours. It took them months and months to get here.”
Yet, she said, it is the worst of times “when we read there are more black males in prison than in schools … Grandma would say it was the worst of times because we waste so much.”
Despite the elements of an era where things seem to be getting worse, church leaders reminded the community in attendance that physical freedom brought to slaves by the proclamation is overshadowed by spiritual freedom, and that the slaves and ancestors of slaves are resilient.
“It was the best of times because no matter how great the will of slavery, the sound of freedom was still a sound in our minds,” Robertson said. “We find today that we are survivors. In order to embrace changes, we will not all agree. But we know God uses all people to bless the race and to bless mankind.”