“LESSONS OF EMANCIPATION FOR A
Emancipation Day has many advantages for the race. It gives a grand opportunity forourscholars to make known the ancient glory, the heroic labors and celebrated actions of Negroes, and point out the path of future success. It is a period of instruction.
—Anonymous correspondent, 1894
The Negro has a part in the history of this country of which he need not be ashamed. Let it be told forhis own vindication. Let it be told as an answerto those who would slanderthe race. Let it be told forthe encouragement of the rising generation. Let it be told for the sake of truth and eternal justice.
—Abraham Lincoln DeMond, January 1, 1900
B ETWEEN THE 1860s and the turn of the century African Americans across the nation struggled to maintain their rights and their collective sense of self-worth in the face of a white sectional reconciliation that placed scant value on blacks' concerns or condition, let alone their history and heritage. The various monument projects, publications, literary and historical societies, and public commemorations undertaken during this trying period demonstrate that these deteriorating circumstances hindered, but could not fully expunge, the efforts of many black leaders to define and disseminate African American history and traditions. The worsening conditions may actually have stimulated some to action. African American leaders during these decades used an array of strategies to advance their complementary pursuits of racial uplift, rights activism, and full inclusion in the republic, infusing those pursuits with positive and functional interpretations of African American history. Freedom Day festivals continued to play a significant role in this enterprise as black Americans entered what has been termed the nadir of African American history. As Jim Crow solidified, white support declined and black celebrations gradually retreated into a more racially segregated public sphere in both the North and the South. Debates over the propriety of celebration and ambivalence about the memory of the