Emancipation Day celebrations were particularly significant events indemarcating slavery and freedom. One of the lesser known aspects ofemancipation in Tennessee is the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation didnot apply to the state; President Abraham Lincoln exempted Tennessee, acceptingthe argument of Military Governor Andrew Johnson and other Unionists that the”rebellion” was over in Tennessee and that the war-related measure of freeingthe Confederacy’s slaves should thus not apply to the state. (Walter T. Durham) East Tennesseans, for example chose August 8, theday that Andrew Johnson was said to have freed his slaves. African Americanscommemorated Emancipation Day for years after the war, with excursion trainsbringing rural folks into the larger towns and cities to celebrate.
“FiveHundred Excursionists Attend Emancipation Celebration at Johnson City,” read aheadline in the Knoxville Sentinel in August 1897. Black Tennesseans continuedto celebrate emancipation into the twentieth century, even as conditions forthem worsened with the implementation of legalized segregation. (LeForge)