The night of December 31, 1862, churches, praying trees, and other public meeting areas were the congregating points for slaves and freed blacks awaiting news that President Lincoln had signed the long awaited Emancipation Proclamation. While the Proclamation did not free all slaves, if did facilitate the beginning of the end of slavery as America knew it in the 1800s.
Frederick Douglas declared the Proclamation to be "the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages."
99 days earlier Lincoln had promised that a proclamation
freeing slaves in the "states in rebellion" would be signed, sparking the creation of "watch night," where the people faithfully waited and watched. In Boston, a line of messenger, or runners, spread out from the telegraph office to the Tremont Temple, where Douglass and hundred of others were awaiting the glorious news that Lincoln had signed the document that promised to bring the black Americans that much closer to the freedom they so desired.
When the news arrived in the wee hours of January 1, 1863, it was a time of jubilee for those engaged in the watch night. The news was greeted by sermons, cheers, songs, prayers, quiet contemplation, and much celebration throughout the states.
Watch nights have continued through today, in many churches across America. Many families continue the use of "watch night" as a way to honor those that came before. An amazing example of this is on http://myancestorsname.blogspot.com/.
Fast forward to 2013 - we need to remember that 150 years later SLAVERY STILL HAS NOT BEEN ERADICATED. In the 1800s, slavery was an acceptable commercial transaction performed in the light of day and in public; now slavery is an ugly, silent, secretive, multimillion dollar a year business.
Do something today to help fight slavery.
Join one of the many organizations that work tirelessly to eradicate slavery in the 21st century
The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (FDFF.org)