Artist Robert Shetterly speaks to students and teachers at the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration on Nov. 30. Shetterly stands next to a portrait of Harriet Tubman. Shetterly's portraits of famous abolitionists were displayed throughout the celebration weekend.
For the past 150 years, America has been through a major social change to try to create a climate where all races are equal regardless of color. The signing of the emancipation proclamation was the first step in putting the freedom of slaves on paper.
Jan. 1 will mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The John Brown Lives! organization put together a two-day event on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 for students, educators and general public across the North Country, “North Country Supports 21st Century Emancipation Proclamation,” at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid Heaven Hill Farm and a showing of “Glory” at the Palace Theater.
Martha Swan, Founder and Director of John Brown Lives said the weekend’s seminars inspired very rich dialogue between the guests.
“It was really stimulating and full of useful information,” Swan said. “It really brought the history out of the deep south and brought it to people in the North Country. It was a chance for people to see who else is out there working with interest to these questions of human equality today.”
When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the throes of the Civil War, he undoubtedly believed that it would sound the death knell for slavery. However, there are approximately 15,000 documented cases of modern day slavery and human trafficking in the United States today and 27 million people enslaved worldwide.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., the great-great-great grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, spoke to visitors about how he continues to carry on the legacy of human equality and end modern day slavery through his organization, the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation.
Through his foundation, Morris has inspired students across the country to produce a New Proclamation of Freedom for the 21st century. He met with students and teachers to inspire them to be modern day abolitionists in the fight against human trafficking. Morris depicted the harsh conditions his relative Douglass endured to fight for his freedom and education.
Over the course of event, Morris talked about slavery in Douglass’ time and today, and encourage audiences, especially students and teachers, to gather signatures for the New Proclamation of Freedom. People can go to www.FDFF.org to sign the petition and learn more about the fight against slavery today.
Artist Robert Shetterly’s portraits of Lincoln, Douglass, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and other 19th century leaders were on display throughout the weekend along with a facsimile of Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation on loan from the New York State Library’s Manuscript and Special Collections Division.
Shetterly said on Nov. 30 it was his quest for truth and honesty in the government which inspired him to start painting freedom fighters. As if it were the first time students had been told their government was not always honest with them. He elaborated on a famous Douglass quote “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them,” to illustrate the government has led us to inhumane choices such as slavery and war.
“No body wants to hear the government is lying to them. Theoretically governments are there to trust and to understand you are purposefully being mislead, who do you believe in, who can you trust,” Shetterly said. “It puts you in a very difficult position.”
Among the other participants and events were writer Amy Godine on Adirondackers with roots in anti-slavery and civil rights movements, a screening of the popular Civil War film, Glory, at The Palace Theater in Lake Placid, in conjunction with the Adirondack Film Society, a lecture on women and emancipation by Dr. Margaret Washington, Sojourner Truth biographer and Cornell University Professor of History, and a keynote address by historian David Blight on the historical memory of the Civil War and emancipation.
All events were part of Freedom Then, Freedom Now: The Long History of Emancipation sponsored by John Brown Lives!, North Country Community College, and the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation.