Annually, local communities around the nation celebrate the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1.
It certainly has been a long-standing tradition in Effingham County as local churches, civic organizations and the Effingham County Branch NAACP celebrate this executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation,issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, which stated,in part, that "all the slaves in the rebellious states (that is, the Confederacy) shall be free." In truth, this was more of a symbolic statement as the slaves legally became free when the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became the law of the land in 1865.
The tradition in Effingham County is that this celebration has taken place on a rotating basis among Effingham County churches. However, for the second consecutive year, in deference to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration took place as a drive-in, stay-in-car happening in the parking lot of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association, Guyton. The Pilgrim parking lot was filled to overflowing as the extended community came out to celebrate with fine weather serving as a backdrop.
Michael Garvin, the former mayor of Guyton, served as the master of ceremonies .Megan Gant and Emanuel Pinkney provided wonderful music in praise of God throughout the ceremony. Lucy Powell, a founding member of the local branch NAACP, well-known to the local community, offered introductory remarks.
Deacon Thomas Lonon introduced the principal speaker, Deacon Willie Wright, a deacon at Eden Missionary Baptist Church, Eden. Wright is also the President of the very active Springfield Central High School Alumni Association. Springfield Central was the African-American high school before 1970. In that year, the Effingham County schools were integrated, and the school's building became the integrated middle school.
Wright's theme was that "freedom does not become a reality without a fight." He emphasized that all of us need to continue to fight, even today, for our freedom. HE noted the importance of both the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. But he reminded the audience members that legal freedom for the slaves did not occur until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
To support this fact, he offered that the slaves in Texas did not know of the Emancipation Proclamation until 1865 when Union soldiers informed them of their freedom. This knowledge of the freedom of the slaves in Texas is celebrated as Juneteenth, just recently proclaimed as a federal holiday -- June 19 each year.
On behalf of the late Pearl Thomas, who served as the Effingham Branch NAACP membership chair for many years, the Thomas family, represented by Diane Ricardo, made a presentation and a generous donation to the Effingham County Branch NAACP.
Nella Lonon made an NAACP membership appeal. In doing so, she referred the audience members of the work of the late Thomas in securing memberships over the many years.
Reverend Delmons White made the closing remarks as he has just completed his first year as president of the Effingham County NAACP Branch. He thanked everyone for their attendance. White acknowledged the efforts of all those responsible for making the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation a success.
He informed the members of the audience that one of his goals in his first year was to increase membership, not only in numbers, but in activity as well. The increase in numbers has been impressive, but he cautioned the current members not to get complacent and to continue to work hard in securing members. He encouraged those in attendance, who are not members, to sign up.
White introduced three former Effingham County Branch NAACP presidents in attendance: Juanita Woods, Leroy Lloyd and Edies Cope.
A tradition of the Emancipation Proclamation celebration is that the grand marshal of the Rev. Dr.Marin Luther King Jr. Day Parade is announced. Levi Scott, a life member of the NAACP and longtime member of the Rincon City Council, had the honor of announcing the grand marshal. Bishop Richard D.M.Garvin, the senior Pastor at Hutchinson Longstreet Missionary Baptist, Church, Stilson.
The parade was conducted in Springfield on Monday.