Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Emancipation Celebrations


The selection of documents in this section reveal much about how the Valley’s African American population celebrated emancipation. While dates for emancipation celebrations varied throughout the Valley, just as they did throughout the nation, the area’s African Americans used these days to not only celebrate slavery’s end, the role they played in it, and chart a course for their political and economic future but to, as historian Kathleen Ann Clark noted, “claim full membership in their communities” by parading through a community’s principal streets as they did in Harrisonburg in 1878 or New Market twenty-one years later and gathering in public spaces such as court-house squares. The documents in this section also reveal much about the manner in which white people attempted to threaten these events or degrade emancipation celebrations through the use of derogatory commentary in newspaper coverage.[1]


[1] Kathleen Ann Clark, Defining Moments: African American Commemoration & Political Culture in the South, 1863-1913 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 30, 32; Evening News (Harrisonburg, VA), September 23, 1899; Bridgewater Enterprise (Bridgewater, VA), September 25, 1878.

Challenging the Lost Cause in Harpers Ferry

John Brown's Fort LOC.jpeg

Arguably no place in the Shenandoah Valley is more significant to the Civil War's emancipationist legacy than Harpers Ferry. Not only was Harpers Ferry the scene of some of the largest emancipation celebrations in the Shenandoah Valley, it became an important gathering place for the Niagara Movement (later the NAACP), and a battleground for contested memory.

Documents in this section focus on the transformation of John Brown's Fort into a monument to freedom and justice, the dedication of the monument to Heyward Shepherd in 1931 and African American responses to it, and the efforts of the NAACP to memorialize John Brown on the campus of Storer College.

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