Emancipation Day in Kentucky and Tennessee Date in the current year: August 8, 2024

Emancipation Day in Kentucky and Tennessee In addition to Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves, some states and counties have their own Emancipation Day celebrations. For example, some communities in eastern Tennessee and western Kentucky traditionally celebrate Emancipation Day on August 8.

Slavery was introduced to North America during the colonial times and legally existed until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in December 1865. It was the main cause of the American Civil War; while all of the Northern states had abolished slavery or set gradual abolition in motion by 1804, the Southern states wanted to keep the status quo because their economy was heavily reliant on slave labor.

On January 1, 1863, at the height of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation entered into force, declaring all slaves in the Confederate states free. Since the Confederate government did not recognize the proclamation, slaves only became free when they escaped behind Union lines or when cities they lived in fell to the Union Army. Galveston, Texas was the last city to free slaves on June 19, 1865.

The anniversary of the final emancipation of the last slaves in the United States became known as Juneteenth, an amalgamation of June and nineteenth. Alternative names include Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Jubilee Day. It was declared a federal holiday in 2021. In addition to Juneteenth, some communities celebrate their local emancipation anniversaries.

For example, Emancipation Day is celebrated on August 8 in eastern Tennessee and western Kentucky. Such a date was chosen because Andrew Jackson, the then Military Governor of Tennessee and future vice president and then president of the United States, freed his slaves on this day in 1863.

Johnson purchased his first slave, a 14-year-old girl named Dolly, in 1843. Soon after, he purchased her half-brother Sam. In 1857, Johnson purchased a 13-year-old boy named Henry. Dolly had three children, and Same and his wife Margaret has nine children. Ultimately, Johnson owned at least ten slaves. He was a kind and compassionate owner who had a familial relationship toward his slaves.

Although Johnson’s political career kicked off in the Southern state of Tennessee, he aligned himself with the Union and did not support the secession of the Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America. On August 8, 1863, Johnson freed his slaves, who preferred to remain in his family as paid servants.

The freed salves of eastern Tennessee began to celebrate Emancipation Day in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War. The main initiator of the celebration was Sam Johnson, one of Andrew Johnson’s former slaves. The tradition was subsequently picked up by some communities in neighboring western Kentucky. Although Emancipation Day isn’t an official holiday, it is observed by many African Americans in Kentucky and Tennessee to this day.

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