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Despite Rain, Emancipation Day Parade Goes On
1/6/2016 5:02:16 PM

Brothers of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Mu Alpha Chapter march through the rain on Sumter Street at the Emancipation Day Parade January 1, 2016. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.

The ladies of The Omicron Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc. wave to the crowd and make sure to protect their hair as they ride on their float on a rainy day at the Emancipation Day parade. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
(Staff Reports) - The Emancipation Association of Charleston has sponsored the Emancipation Day Parade some 40 years. And this year despite that relatively few braved drizzling rain to line the parade route, the tradition that began shortly after World War 1 continued again this year. Charleston’s Black community has held the parade annually to commemorate January 1, 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect freeing Black slaves in the Union.

Each year the association’s members send hundreds of letters inviting local school bands and organizations to participate and each year the numbers of those responding gets smaller and smaller. Some 87 units, mostly church and social organizations, participated in the parade for the annual occasion. No school band participated this year.

Behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into making sure everyone who wishes to participate is in the line-up. The night before the parade, Watch night is observed throughout Charleston in the Black church. A church program headed up by ministers follows immediately after the parade at one of the area churches. This year the service was held at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.

According to the Lowcountry Africana, January 1, 1866 started the first official Emancipation Day which was celebrated on the Charleston Battery with a parade and barbecue with White Union Officers and leaders of the Black community.

Watch Night’s origin is what the Emancipation Proclamation celebration is predicated upon—waiting, watching and praying for freedom. Blacks received word that President Abraham Lincoln would sign a document called the Emancipation Proclamation freeing “all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state”. It was also ordered that the executive government of the United States including the military would recognize such freedom and would protect and not inhibit persons formally held as slaves.

The Emancipation Proclamation Association would like to thank everyone that had a hand in putting together this year's parade. "We are very thankful for the participants and everyone that came out to the parade. The association members and other supporters worked very hard to make this happen," said president Ethel Greene. "Although some of us got wet, we still wanted to recognize those who fought for our freedom. Rain or shine, the show must go on."

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