Emancipation Day in PVD, Aug 1

Advertisement for Emancipation Day rally, 1854, in Providence on the 20th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. (Credit: RI Black Heritage Society)

Slavery ended throughout the British Empire on “Emancipation Day,” August 1, 1834, when the Slavery Abolition Act came into force. Free Blacks in the United States began celebrating the anniversary as many had personal and community connections with the former slaves of the British West Indies, the Caribbean Islands (including Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago) where 95% of the slaves brought from Africa to North America were forced to cultivate sugar cane. Because slavery continued in the United States until the Civil War ended in 1865, these annual commemorations throughout the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s were rallies in support of abolishing it.

Emancipation Day Providence 2020 flyer

That tradition is being revived now in a radically different context, and a celebration rally with speakers and music is scheduled for 3 – 8pm, Saturday, August 1, at the Temple to Music in Roger Williams Park in Providence (facebook.com/events/747105509428811). Speakers include historian Keith Stokes, who provided a copy of an advertisement in the collection of the RI Black Heritage Society for the 20th anniversary march in Providence in 1854, using the florid language of the era: “assemble in Nature’s garden, with the blue vault of Heaven for a covering” (meaning outdoors). In addition to Stokes, the speakers list includes event organizer Khalif Andreozzi, Mayor Jorge Elorza, City Council President Sabina Matos, Sen. Harold M. Metts, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, Rep. Anastasia Williams, NAACP President Jim Vincent, Cultural Equity Initiative founder Raymond L. “Two Hawks” Watson, Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island imam Farid Ansari, Lisa Ranglin, and Zuli Vidal. Performers include Maxx Major, Jahmal Brown, Michael Clark (gospel), Cam Bells, MrDeep Positivity, Indigo (poetry), and Infinite Power of Culture (youth dance). The master of ceremonies will be Jermaine Whitehead-Bailey. Attendees should wear face coverings and are invited to bring water to stay hydrated, signs, lawn chairs and umbrellas for shade. For more information, text “emancipation” to 797979 or telephone 401-263-1691.