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IAAM program commemorates anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The International African American Museum entered a new year by reflecting on a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

“’Freedom’s Eve,’ ‘Watch Night,’ which is a gift of the Gullah community to the rest of the African American community. Waiting and watching in anticipation of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation which of course has such incredible impact and implications for the larger African American community. Right, we’re not really African Americans before this reading,” explained Malika Pryor, the Chief Learning and Engagement Officer for the IAAM.

On January 1st, 1863, enslaved people were freed with the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The museum hosted a program on Monday called “Onward from Freedom’s Eve,” to commemorate the anniversary of the announcement and the night before, known as “Freedom’s Eve,” when Africans around the country waited up for the news.

Gullah Geechee natives, Victoria Smalls and Sunn m’Cheaux, discussed the significance the day had on the Gullah Geechee and African American communities as well as its complexity.

“I don’t want you to walk out here and give them credit that ‘Freedom’s Eve’ represents when they came to tell us that we can be free, and Emancipation Day is the day the promise was delivered. No. It was just them calling for help,” m’Cheaux said during the sold-out program.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation did bring newfound freedom for many, Pryor said it wasn’t an immediate change.

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