KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — August 8, 1863 marks the date enslaved people in the state of Tennessee were freed. In the years following, this date has been celebrated as emancipation day.
The creation and spread of the holiday is credited to Samuel Johnson. He was owned by then military governer, Andrew Johnson. On August 8, Samuel, his wife Dolly, and nephew William were freed. Samuel commemorated that date every year after.
“Sam Johnson who was one of those original persons who was emancipated on august 8th, 1863, he began to do celebrations. He began to do what he called Freedom day, emancipation day services. And they had a great time, they celebrated there was food there was music, there was speeches.” said Reverend Renee Kesler, President of the Beck Cultural Center.
Kesler says the Beck Center helps to keep that history alive by holding celebrations every year.
“Beck has been doing eighth of August celebrations. This is our sixth annual 8th of August, we have not stopped, we will not stop. We are hopeful that the eighth of August will become a state holiday in the state of Tennessee, currently Juneteenth is a state holiday in Texas. We’ve left out a lot of the story of black history. We get a change to get it right. We can tell the rich history of African Americans now. We have an opportunity to do that.” Kesler said.
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