WASHINGTON (September 21, 2012) – Howard University joined with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on Sept. 17 at the base of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
The Lincoln Memorial ceremony, entitled “Celebrating Freedom,” was part of a week of NEH and Howard activities that celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation, which led to the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States. The ceremony featured keynote remarks by U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon.
Howard’s vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue, the ROTC Color Guard, actress Alfre Woodard and actor and Howard alumnus Tyree Young participated in the ceremony. Howard Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Wayne Frederick, also spoke.
Dr. Frederick described how veterans of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, both black and white, contributed to the early success of Howard. He shared that renowned abolitionist and freedom-fighter Frederick Douglass served as a university trustee for 25 years.
“To enslaved persons who had been denied freedom for generations, the emancipation proclamation gave hope,” said Dr. Frederick. “This hope rested on the belief that the country of their birth would be undeniably theirs, a place where they and their children could share with all Americans the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, most notably freedom.”
“Celebrating Freedom” was the highlight of the Howard-NEH Constitution Week of events. Additional events included a discussion on past and present challenges of voting rights at Founders Library and a discussion of the constitutional and human rights of female athletes at the Howard Law School. Other panels held on campus addressed the events leading up to Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary proclamation and African-American contributions to Emancipation.
According to the Oxford African American Studies Center, the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation offered the southern states a choice: save slavery by returning to the Union by Jan. 1, 1863, or remain in rebellion and lose slavery forever. No Southern states accepted the offer.