GREENVILLE—Twenty-three people from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and Longbranch Baptist Church of Greenville joined forces to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 22.
St. Anthony’s pastor, Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, chauffered the parish bus which carried the representatives to Furman University for a lecture on “Visualizing Emancipation” by Edward Ayers, historian and president of the University of Richmond. The talk was the last in a series sponsored by Furman and the Upcountry Historical Museum to mark the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Jan. 1, 1863, action freeing 3.1 million African-American slaves in the South.
St. Anthony’s bus was equipped with a selection of rousing African American Spirituals and the travelers sang joyfully along the way.
Ayers presented a historical context of the proclamation, noting that it was unexpected by most. He said the recent blockbuster movie “Lincoln” understated the rancor and dissension that gripped the country at the time in both the North and the South. He said the presidential decree freeing the slaves would probably not have occurred if the Southern states had not taken the drastic step of seceding from the Union.
Ayers also noted that slaves in the Kentucky, which remained in the Union, were not affected by the release which only applied to the states in rebellion. He said the whole event seemed small in the perspective to the next 100 years of segregation, discrimination, unemployment, and poverty that gripped blacks in the South. In response to a question from Jesse Bowens of St. Anthony about the real impact of the proclamation, he responded that one key result that should never be forgotten was that “no one could ever again sell your children.”
After the presentation and Q&A period, the attendees from the two churches repaired to a nearby mountain — “Yogurt Mountain” that is — for refreshments and fellowship hosted by St. Anthony before boarding the bus and again joining together in song as they made their way home.
Submitted by Don Kilburg