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Emancipation Day in Baltimore

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2014 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , ,

Resolutions in honor... New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884

Resolutions in honor… New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884

On November 1, 1864, Maryland abolished slavery when a new state constitution forbidding the practice went into effect.  The simple words of Article 24 of that document stated:

“[T]hat hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves, are hereby declared free.”

How did the Baltimore City government react to the news of emancipation?  The all-male, all-white City Council passed a remarkable resolution that starts:

Whereas it is fitting that a people freed from a barbaric custom of a feudal age should… tak[e] their proud position among the free… Whereas the people of Maryland have by the adoption of a free State Constitution have been redeemed regenerated and disenthralled, And by this progressive act in the cause of freedom… have earned immortal honors for themselves….

A committee of the City Council, at the urging of Mayor Chapman, arranged for a 500 gun salute “as an evidence of  [the] joy felt by the people of Baltimore for the Salvation of Maryland.” Chapman further requested that church bells ring at sunrise to greet the dawning of this new era.

How did Baltimore’s African American population greet the news of emancipation?  According to the Baltimore Clipper newspaper:

The colored portion of our community converted [the first of November] into a day of holiday, thanksgiving, and prayer… they donned their best attire, and social reunions were indulged in… [t]he various churches were thronged during the entire day, and at the church on Saratoga Street [Bethel A.M.E.]… the place was crowded, and at times it was impossible for a vehicle to pass… so dense was the mass of persons. 

Emancipation Day in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864

Emancipation Day activities in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864