The celebration of the thirty-third anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation will be celebrated by colored people in this city on the 22d of this month. The celebration is a tri-state affair and includes West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is expected that a great crowd will be attracted from all parts of the states named.
The committee on arrangements is now at work on the programme, some of the details of which have already been completed. The committee is made up of the following well-known colored citizens: Thurston Yates, J. McHenry Jones, Robert Strange, John R. Washington, Ashley Jeffries, Robert Bullard, Brown Berry, Frank Johnson, G. W. McMechen, Charles Lee, Charles Williams, chairman; Oxborne Gray, secretary.
The celebration exercises will take place at the State Fair grounds on the Island, where the addresses will be delivered, the races run and the other features given. The exercises will be conducted under the supervision of the master of ceremonies, Prof. J. McHenry Jones, principal of Lincoln school. The address will be by Hon. John R. Lynch, one of the foremost colored men of the country, who will come to Wheeling from Washington City, where he now resides. Another address will be made by Mr. Philip Waters of Charleston, one of the best colored orators of this state.
The amusement features will include horse racing, bicycle racing, sack racing, wheelbarrow racing, base ball games and other features. A banquet will be held in the evening at Turner's hall.
from the Wheeling Intelligencer, Sept. 23, 1896 (p. 1):
Although rain and cold wind prevailed yesterday, the enthusiasm of the local colored folks was neither dampened nor chilled to a degree sufficient to keep them from celebrating the thirty-third anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. Despite the weather, it was by long odds the largest and best celebration ever held in Wheeling, and the crowd on the fair grounds in the afternoon was large.
The day opened with a cold drizzling rain, which continued at intervals throughout the morning and until about half past four. The parade which opened the exercises of the day took place at 10 o'clock, and was the largest and most creditable turn-out of the colored societies and citizens ever seen in the city and reflects great credit on the race and those who had it in charge.
The procession formed on Chapline street, with the right resting on Twelfth, and moved over the following route: Down Twelfth to Main, down Main to Twenty-fourth, up Twenty-fourth to Chapline, up Chapline to Twentieth, down to Market, up Market to Ninth, down Ninth to Main, down Main to Tenth and over the Suspension bridge and to the state fair grounds.
The officers in charge of the parade were: Chief Marshal, Alex. Turner; assistant marshals, Robert Strange, Alex. Hopkins, Osborne Gray and Gabriel Jackson. The order of the parade was as follows:
The various societies were well represented and all made an elegant showing. The Odd Fellows were particularly noticeable owning to their splendid uniforms. The Eureka lodge was out in full force and made a great showing, as did the others. Over sixty carriages were in line, containing the speakers, visitors and citizens. The floats were tastefully arranged and added greatly to the attractiveness of the turn-out. The trades display contained a large number of beautifully trimmed wagons, representing the business houses. It was a first class parade, and was witnessed by thousands of people who had assembled along the route.
When the parade reached the fair grounds it was dinner time and most of those in line took dinner on the grounds, after which the time was put in in various social ways, until about 2 o'clock, when the meeting was announced to take place at the grand stand. That structure contained a very large crowd when the chairman of the meeting, Professor J. McHenry Jones, called the meeting to order.
Professor Jones spoke briefly of the object of the gathering and congratulated the colored people on the large attendance, despite the weather. He said it was the proper spirit that prompted the colored people to celebrate the anniversary of the day when 3,000,000 of their number had been set free by that illustrious statesman, and martyr, President Abraham Lincoln. He also said it was not only essential that they, as a race, should celebrate Emancipation day, but they should also join with all Americans in celebrating Washington's Birthday, Decoration Day, Fourth of July and other state days. He then presented Mayor B. F. Caldwell, who was greeted with enthusiastic applause. Mayor Caldwell spoke as follows:
"Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: Verily the pen is mightier than the sword. What we behold here today, is but one of thousands of pictures of the results of Emancipation. When I look over this great audience I feel that you are here for a purpose, for a laudable purpose. This is the thirty-third anniversary of the signing by Abraham Lincoln of that great liberty giving proclamation known as the Emancipation Proclamation, the paper that gave to the colored people of this country all the rights and priviledges accorded to other men. It is right and proper and I heartily approve of this celebration. It should kept fresh in the memory of all men and especially the colored people.
"All nations have days they celebrate on account of some event in their history. Organizations celebrate their anniversaries, and Americans everywhere celebrate the Fourth of July, it being the day the colonies determined to be free and independent states. How well they carried out that determination is shown to-day, when we are able to point you to a nation of seventy million of freemen under one flag, and the colored man is there to swell the crowd.
"Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia Emancipation celebration. What a happy combination! The three in one, bound by ties that cannot be severed as long as that starry banner floats over the people, that know no north, no south, no east and no west, nothing but the union, one and inseparable.
"West Virginia, always loyal, was the first to respond to the President's call for troops, not to free the colored man, but to preserve the union. One of our honored citizens was among the first that was struck down in defence of that flag: I refer to General B. F. Kelley. West Virginia stood as a great bulwark in defence of liberty and the success of our armies in that great conflict, was largely due to the stand that our people took in the maintenance of the union.
"Wheeling took a leading part in the affairs of our state. At that time all her influence and energies were exerted for the upholding of that flag, and many of our best people laid down their lives that the union might be preserved. The war was not waged in the interest of the colored man, but for the maintenace of the union and to maintain the supremacy of the constitution in all the states.
"The President, Mr. Lincoln, while always opposed to any farther extension of slavery, would have been glad to have been rid of the whole system in all the states, and wrote a letter to Horace Greeley in which he used this language:
"'My paramount object is to save the union and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the union without freeing the slaves, I would do it. If I could save the union by freeing all the slaves I would do it.'
"He thought to save the union by freeing the slaves and the great Proclamation was prepared and signed and slavery forever destroyed and the union preserved. The war was undoubtedly prolonged by a false sentiment held by many of our best people of the loyal states and some of our greatest commanders. And for a long time even the president would not consent to to the arming of the colored men who had come within union lines. But the necessity was finally forced upon the government and the result was most gratifying. Many thousands were armed and their drilling commenced. Men who had never known what a gun was, were sent to the front with but a few days of preparation.
"One of our great commanders in his report of a great battle won, in describing the good work of the different commands, had thisto say of the colored man, which set at rest forever all doubt as to his efficiency as a soldier:
"'And the colored troops fought nobly."
"Four millions in bondage: their shackles could be heard clanking throughout every southern state. For many years before the great conflict began, about all that the United States marshalls did was to return to the south the colored men, who had run away from their masters.
"But a day of deliverance came, the day we celebrate, Emancipation day. Abraham Lincoln, taking the pen and with one mighty stroke, as a lightning flash, the bonds were severed, in a twinkling, four millions of human beings were changed from slaves to freemen. We have all heard of Sherman's march through Georgia, and we have all heard the song of "Marching Through Georgia," but there are but few of us who know of the destruction and suffering caused by that great army, which cut the Confederacy in two and done so much to bring about a final surrender of all the Confederate forces. There were thousands of colored people following Sherman. Riding along the general spoke to a colored man and said, "My man, where are you people going?" Looking at the general with an earnestness, he said, "Well, boss, we is going just where you white men are going."
"That colored man, in his answer to Sherman, told the story of their progress from that time to the present. Truly he has been going where the white man goes. You find him a professor in our colleges, superintendent in our schools; look in our state legislatures, he is there; the professions of law, medicine and ministry, he is there, yes, and at the capitol of the nation you find him filling high and responsible positions, and he has kept his word and is still going where the white man goes.
"When we consider the limited opportunities he has had, his progress has been most wonderful. Born and raised in slavery and his fathers before him with all means of progress closed against him living without hope of any condition other than slavery, the world must admit that he is entitled to all the rights accorded to other men for his wonderful progress.
"Now we are inclined to believe that the Union soldiers, the Good Lord and Abraham Lincoln were the combination that did the work and what they did they did well. The Proclamation that brings us here to-day was issued September 22, 1863, and was a note of warning to the states in rebellion to lay down their arms and obey the lawful government or it would have full force and effect on January 1, 1864. Had the Confederacy acknowledged the Washington government then slavery would have had another lease on life and the conflict would have been continued. It was agreed among the best statesmen of that day that the Union could not be maintained one-half slave and the other half free and slavery had to go.
"But, my friends, why talk about these things now? The war is long since over; the conflict is a thing of the past; the black man is free and by enactment is entitled to all the rights and privileges of any other man. How well they have improved their opportunities this day can testify. The past is gone; the present is ours. Let us improve the present and future by the experience of the past. If we do this, I feel sure that in the near future the color lines that now show dimly will be wholly wiped out.
"I cannot let the opportunity pass without calling your attention to some names that should be dear to the heart of the colored people. To-day Abraham Lincoln is the central figure, but he should be surrounded with a galaxy of names that will go down in history as champions of human liberty. I will only mention a few. These men fought great battles for human liberty long years before the rebellion: Charles Sumner, Wendel Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Horace Greeley, John C. Freemont, Frederic Douglas.
"My friends I esteem it a great honor to be with you to-day and as the mayor of the city, extend to you one and all the hospitalities and freedom of the city of Wheeling. I know you will be well cared for and well fed, for Old Virginia never tires of getting up good dinners for the stranger within her gates. I know the colored people of our city; it has been my good fortune to sit at the same table with some of them years ago.
The mayor's remarks were frequently interrupted by applause and when he had concluded, Professor Jones introduced Miss Ada M. Hawkins, who read the Emancipation Proclamation in a very credible manner. Miss Hawkins is a clever elocutionist.
Following Miss Hawkins, the Opera House band rendered a pleasing selection, after which Professor Jones said it was his pleasant duty to introduce the speaker of the day. He characterized the meetings of colored people on occasions of this kind as being very beneficial to the race and the community in which they lived; it gave them an opportunity to hear all the leading orators of their race. They had with them one of the "Big Four." We have heard Langston, Bruce and Douglass and now will have the chance to hear Senator John M. Lynch, of Mississippi." The speaker spoke in glowing terms of the work these men had done in advancing the race and paid a glowing tribute to the memory of Stephen Douglass.
As Mr. Lynch advanced to address the audience, the audience arose to their feet and made the valley ring with cheers, and it was several moments before the distinguished gentleman could proceed.
He began by saying he was glad to be with the people of Wheeling, and able to celebrate the thirty-third anniversary of the Emancipation of his race on the soil of the state in which John Brown had sacrificed his life, as a pioneer of the question of the abolishment of slavery.
He then branched out and compared the condition of the colored race to-day with what it was previous to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and also spoke of the condition of the colored people in the south. In this connection the speaker said the conditions were greatly improved, excepting in regard to elections in which the negro has no justice at all. He is intimidated the polls and has no show whatever in casting his vote according to the dictates of his own judgment. In connection with the treatment of the colored people by the whites, he said it had been fully demonstrated that the better class of the white citizens, the educated class, were in sympathy with the black man, and would do all in their power to advance their interests. It is only the lower classes of whites who have ever said a discouraging word or ever tried to put down an honest, hard working negro.
For this reason Senator Lynch expressed himself against negros leaving the country, either for Africa, or any foreign shore, their home is America, in America they were born, and in America they should die. There is no good to come of colonization in foreign lands and it would only be a question of time until discontent would reign and the people would once more seek their former homes in free America. The colored population should stay here and fight out any disadvantages that confronts them.
The destiny of the race is in their own keeping and knowing this they should endeavor by their deeds to build up their standing in the community in which they live. Every colored man should be industrious, he should save his money by being economical in his living, he should be polite to all and rude to none, by this, he sould soon advance his race to a level never before attained, and never even hoped for.
The speaker said the occation was of such a nature that while politics could not be discussed appropriately, still the fact that the Emancipation of the slaves was in its self brought about by politics, matters of a political nature could not be entirely disassociated from the celebration, and that it was every colored voters duty to vote for the party and policy that would undoubtedly benefit him most.
He spoke in glowing terms of Lincoln and the men who fought and died that the shackles about the necks of 3,000,000 slaves might be shattered and the black man set free. He pictured the negro as a slave and the negro as a successful man. He urged the people to educate their children and to give them a practical education that would fit them for business. Don't bring up all your boys with the intention that they be made a doctor, preacher, or even a lawyer, but make them business men, and infuse into their minds business ideas. Don't educate all your daughters, expecting they will be school teachers, but give them practical lessons on house keeping. There are too many doctors, lawyers and preachers now for them all to make a good living, and the supply of school teachers is abundant.
Senator spoke in this strain for some time and was many times applauded to the echo. His address abounded with common sense expressed in a most eloquent manner, and when he had finished the crowd cheered him to the echo.
After Senator Lynch had concluded, the races announced, took place. There were two of them, a trotting race and a bicycle race, both of which were very interesting.
The trotting race was between Gypsy Boy, Daisy Wheat and Butcher Boy. Only two heats were required to decide the race and the horses finished in order named. The first heat was made in 2:59 1/2, and the second in 2:58.
The bicycle race was won by Charley Scott, in 3:08, with Morris Carpenter a close second.
After the races the crowd repaired to the dancing floor, where dancing to the Opera House orchestra was indulged in until 6 o'clock.
In the evening, a grand banquet was given at Turner hall, which was largely attended, and was a most enjoyable feature of the day. The best colored people of the city and many from other cities were present and participated in the festivities. At 9 o'clock Senator Lynch made a short address and this was followed with dancing, which was kept up until a late hour. At midnight an elegant banquet was given and discussed in a hearty manner. The menu was as follows:
It was a fitting close of the celebration of Emancipation day and the committee having the affair in charge are to congratulated on the result of their efforts.
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.