January 25, 2013, by Fraser

Celebrate 150 years since the end of slavery in the US

Professor Zoe Trodd from Nottingham’s Department of American and Canadian Studies fills us in on how the department is celebrating the 150th anniversary of slave emancipation. 

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the US Emancipation Proclamation. Signed and issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the American civil war on January 1 1863, the order proclaimed free all those enslaved in the Confederate States.

The black abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass waited for news of the Proclamation “as for a bolt from the sky… longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries”. But 50 years later, on the occasion of the Emancipation semicentennial in 1913, the black poet and NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson protested the ongoing lynchings of thousands of African Americans in the former slave states and asked if the Proclamation had been “in vain”.

And in 1963, in the year of the Emancipation centennial, Martin Luther King Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed:  “Five score years ago, a great American…signed the Emancipation Proclamation…But one hundred years later…the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation.” Though slavery and lynching had ended, segregation continued. African Americans were still not free.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama marked the 150th anniversary of Emancipation and called on Americans to “reaffirm” yet again its “timeless principles”.

To mark the occasion…

Nottingham’s Department of American and Canadian Studies is hosting a series of public events, including:

  • a talk by Lloyd Pratt of Oxford University about Frederick Douglass at 5pm on January 28 in LASS A2
  • a debate about the recent Spielberg movie Lincoln at 5pm on Wednesday 20 February in Highfield House A01.
  • and a roundtable called “Emancipation at 150 Years: Remembering Slavery and Freedom” at 5pm on January 30 in Highfield House A01, featuring Nottingham Professors Celeste-Marie Bernier, Judie Newman and Zoe Trodd, who will discuss the changing meanings of Emancipation at the 50th, 100th and 150th anniversaries.

 Photo credit: Abraham Obama Mural (Boston, 2008), by Ron English

Posted in Events