RIO GRANDE — The longest running celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation will mark its 150th year this month, when the important historic event takes place September 20-22. Bob Evans Farms will sponsor and host the event coordinated by the Gallia County Emancipation Celebration Committee.
“Looking Back to Move Ahead” is the theme of the event, first held in 1863, the year U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the document abolishing slavery. The observance offers an opportunity to reflect on the past, experience the present and protect the future of African-Americans in southeast Ohio and across the country.
The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m., Friday, September 20, with a homecoming reception and concert at the Ariel-Dater Hall in Gallipolis followed by a candlelight walk to the Ohio River — largely considered the boundary between slavery and freedom during the Civil War era. The celebration continues Saturday and Sunday at Bob Evans Farms in Rio Grande.
“We are proud to be associated with this event,” said Ray McKinniss, manager of Bob Evans Farms in Rio Grande. “It’s important that we honor this document that changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and remind people of the sacrifices that were made.”
Fritz Klein, a well-known President Lincoln re-enactor, will perform readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Klein, who has appeared in 38 states and internationally, has done documentary films for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and has been widely described as the top Lincoln re-enactor in the country.
Additional events through the weekend include Civil War-era musical performances and a keynote speech by Yvette McGee Brown, the first African-American female Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. Displays and activities will be available, including an ethnic arts and crafts display, genealogical exhibits, carriage and pony rides and games for children. Members of the United States Colored Troops 5th Regiment will be encamped on the grounds.
For more information about this year’s Emancipation Day observance, including a full list of activities and directions, visit www.emancipation-day.com.