On Sept 22, 1862 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln and declared that on Jan. 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free..."
"We think it's important to celebrate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation," said Ken Reaves, the president of the Emancipation Proclamation Committee in Bartow County. "We can look back ... and see how far God has brought us as a people. Not to look back in anger but to look back in remembrance."
The service featured a musical section including "Lift Every Voice and Sing," "We Shall Overcome," and various other songs performed the church's choir.
"I can remember the fountains when they were colored," said Nancy Beasley, who has been a member of the committee since 1950. "I can remember the time when if you were walking on the sidewalk and a group of whites said to get off you had to move. My daddy was one who said, 'Don't move, stay on the sidewalk. We pay taxes too.'
"This [service] gives us an opportunity or platform for our enlightening [the youth] on how slavery was," she said. "How people banded together and worked together so we could overcome as the song says."
The guest speaker for the event was Rev. Walter Gregory.
"It's a time of reflection," Gregory said before the service. "I was given a theme, 'Ashamed of, or inspired by your history.' Certainly the African-American history in America in particular and Bartow County and Cartersville is a rich history. I think that there are some parallels in the Bible with the history of the Israelites ... in particular how they got to Egypt and the circumstances surrounding them coming out of Egypt ... and so I wish to point to that today to understand there is nothing in our history certainly to be ashamed of but to be inspired by. The lessons of life are not in what we possess and how much we can accumulate, but is what we learn from our past.
"We should never, never ever forget," he said. "We should pass along the rich traditions of our history to our children ... we do have a lot to be proud of and we should draw upon that for our future aspirations ... Always aspire to do your best no matter what circumstances you have to go through in life. Never give up. Hold on to your dreams."
During the celebration several members of the community were presented awards for their accomplishments.
The celebration program was dedicated to Beasley who received 12 roses -- each to represent a different aspect of her character.
"I think those who get to know Nancy Beasley know that she's a person of great integrity and this is really showing our appreciation and our love for her," Reaves said.
Other awards included a scholarship given to Malcom Johnson -- who is a Woodland High School graduate and current Valdosta State University student. The Mentor Award was given to Adrienne Harris and the Citizenship Award was given to Mary Kitchens.
"We thought it was a good turn out -- a lot of young people here," said Reaves after the celebration. "That's what we want -- a lot young people to come out to learn about this celebration.
"They've been doing it for over 80 years which is really a testament to the fortitude and the commitment of the folks here in Bartow County."