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]

Notes:

[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.