The Minnesota African American Museum’s (MAAM) Emancipation Proclamation committee convened a Minnesota commemoration on December 20 in the Governor’s Reception Room at the Minnesota State Capitol. At the commemoration, Gov. Dayton proclaimed January 1, 2013 as “Emancipation Proclamation Remembrance Day,” as it marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of Lincoln’s proclamation. University of St. Thomas School of Law Director of Diversity Dr. Artika Tyner herself served on the MAAM’s Emancipation Proclamation committee and was present at Gov. Dayton’s commemoration to join in the celebration.
Dr. Tyner spoke about the role that African American churches played in the fight for freedom and the Emancipation Proclamation. The night before Lincoln’s proclamation went into effect, December 31, 1863, the African American community gathered in churches, counting down the minutes until midnight. They were prepared to seize the promise of freedom and many joined the Union Army to fight for freedom. This night is known as “Freedom’s Eve” and the services the churches held came to be known as “Watch Night services.” Similar celebrations are still held in churches on New Year’s Eve to date, demonstrating the significance that this tradition continues to hold in our communities.
Other speakers at Gov. Dayton’s commemoration included Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright, historian David Riehle, Judge LaJune Lange, Governor Al Quie, Steve Hunegs, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Rev. Russell, Lou Bellamy and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, who read Lincoln’s proclamation, which declared 3.1 million enslaved people free on January 1, 1863. The Founder and Executive Director of the MAAM, Roxanne Givens, was also acknowledged at this event for her leadership and vision for educating the community on the history of the Emancipation Proclamation. The event was an important historical reflection and celebration about the history of our nation and the struggles we have overcome. We are very proud to have Dr. Tyner participate in shedding light on such a significant milestone. Governor Dayton’s official proclamation can be viewed online at http://mn.gov/governor/images/Emancipation_Proclamation_Remembrance_Day.pdf.