Celebration of Emancipation Day


PORTSMOUTH- The Portsmouth Unity Project and Shawnee State University invites area residents to this year’s celebration of Emancipation Day – the Anniversary of President Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.

Scheduled for Friday, September 22nd, 2023, this year’s celebration includes an award’s ceremony honoring Rev. Ralph Clay and Dr. Cassie Patterson, a reading of the Proclamation declaring September to be Underground Railroad Month in the City of Portsmouth, a traditional musical program of African American spirituals, community video presentations, and historical remarks on the role that Portsmouth played in the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery. The celebration will begin at 10:00am in the Vern Riffer Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University.

Project founder, and Portsmouth resident, Gerald Cadogan, said, “Come join us in celebrating Emancipation Day on September 22 as we highlight diversity in Portsmouth’s past history as well as honoring current impactful members of our community.”

With the goal of healing racial divides and bridging old divisions, the Portsmouth Unity Project aims to create transformative artistic and educational experiences that inspire and highlight all faces and races in the Portsmouth area.

Since September 2020, the Unity Project has completed seven murals in the city, which include the “Band Together” mural, celebrating the life of Portsmouth native and jazz legend, Stuff Smith, and other unity-themed murals on the exterior walls of Earth Candy Farmacy, Ascend Counseling and Recovery Services, the River City Adventure Company, the McKinley Memorial Pool, and the SOMC Cancer Center. Additionally, the Portsmouth Unity Project, in partnership with Main Street Portsmouth, installed a series of Unity-themed historical banners on streetlamps on Chillicothe and Second Streets. The banners highlighted Portsmouth “Dreamers and Builders” who played important roles in the struggle for freedom and equality.

Emancipation Day marks the anniversary of President Lincoln’s first announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, which would free slaves in rebellious states and open US armed forces to African American enlistment. Portsmouth residents, white and black, played critical roles in the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery throughout the United States. The city’s interracial network of abolitionists and Underground Railroad operators nurtured two Congressmen – James Ashley, who is recognized as the author of the 13th Amendment and Wells A. Hutchins, the only Ohio Democratic Congressman to cross party-lines to support ratification, supplying one of the critical votes needed to secure its passage.

Project historian, Andrew Feight, notes that “Portsmouth helped abolish slavery and its diverse community of men and women have long worked together to advance the cause of equality in southern Ohio and the larger United States. The Unity Project hopes to reclaim and celebrate this history and, thereby, inspire our fellow community members today to “Stand Together, here.”

The celebration is free and open to the public. Areas schools are invited to join in the celebration.

Please contact Tia King at (740) 821-1062 for additional information or email her at [email protected].

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