Lincoln's proclamation freeing slaves in 1863 recalled and honored Songs, calls for vigilance mark 135th anniversary celebration in Baltimore

January 05, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Stirring songs of the struggle for freedom and calls for continued vigilance highlighted a celebration in Baltimore yesterday marking the 135th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the measure that freed slaves during the Civil War.

The observance, held in a majestic sanctuary in the Willard W. Allen Masonic Temple in Bolton Hill, drew about 1,400 people, including elected officials, educators and members of the judiciary.

The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and took effect Jan. 1, 1863. It freed the slaves and changed the emphasis of wartime policy from just restoration of the Union to a battle against slavery.

"We would hope that this day would be just a remembrance of a historic event, but unfortunately it must be much more," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening. "There must be a continued call to action, because we can't be truly free until everyone has an opportunity to share in the wealth of this state and of this country."

Among those recognized at yesterday's celebration were: Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals; state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein; state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon; and longtime state Sen. Clarence W. Blount of Baltimore.

Blount stressed the importance of annual observances of the Emancipation Proclamation.

"Far too many of us forget that there was an Emancipation Proclamation and that there was slavery," Blount said. "The new generation coming up just doesn't know. And if you don't know who you are, then someone else can define who you are."

Stuart O. Simms, Maryland secretary of public safety and correctional services, urged those at the ceremony to return to the primary source to understand the historical significance of the historic document.

"Tonight, in your private moments, read the Emancipation Proclamation," Simms said. "And when you get to the paragraph about the declaration of freedom, imagine your grandmother and grandfather and consider yourselves blessed."

State Sen. Larry Young, chairman of the Legislative Black

nTC Caucus of Maryland, spoke of the inequality that still exists in the business community.

"In 1998, we still have a chain of commerce that still has no diversity and has shown no interest in opening up to inclusion," he said.

Pub Date: 1/05/98

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