Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915

By Mitch Kachun | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
“THE FAITH THAT THE DARK PAST
HAS TAUGHT US”

DISSOLUTION, 1900–1920

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till our victory is won.

—“Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, ”
James Weldon Johnson, 1900

Just fifty years—a winter's day— As runs the history of a race; Yet, as we look back o'er the way, How distant seems our starting place! ……………………………………. Then let us here erect a stone, To mark the place, to mark the time; A witness to God's mercies shown, A pledge to hold this day sublime.

—“Fifty Years, ”
James Weldon Johnson, 1913

E MANCIPATION DAY celebrations in the nation's capital were in many ways distinctive: for their commemoration of a locality-specific date and event; for taking place in a city of such national prominence; for their long years of uninterrupted observance; for their magnitude; for the size and complexity of the city's black community; and for the intensity with which that community often engaged the issues surrounding the commemoration of African American freedom. These factors do not render Washington's Freedom Day tradition anomalous; rather, they combine to draw in bold relief a number of patterns that affected Freedom Day commemorations across the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

One of the most important patterns—one that illustrates African Americans' most fundamental predicament—involves the increasingly segregated

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Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Festivals of Freedom *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Foundations, 1808–1834 16
  • Chapter Two - Maturation, 1834–1862 54
  • Chapter Three - Expansion and Fragmentation, 1862–1870s 97
  • Chapter Four - Remembrance and Amnesia, 1870s–1910s 147
  • Chapter Five - Reorientation, 1860s–1900s 175
  • Chapter Six - Contestation in Washington, D. C., 1860s–1900s 207
  • Chapter Seven - Dissolution, 1900–1920 233
  • Notes 261
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 327
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