Historians point to ‘powerful’ 1862 dates to mark the demise of slavery

Historians point to ‘powerful’ 1862 dates to mark the demise of slavery
Historians point to ‘powerful’ 1862 dates to mark the demise of slavery(WTOC)
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 12:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 12:46 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Juneteenth represents the day freedom arrived in Galveston, Texas for enslaved African men and women. It came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

June 19th is a day that’s now celebrated across the U.S. to mark the end of slavery.

But history shows Freedom Day for those enslaved in this part of the South actually happened months before the president made it official on January 1, 1863.

“Yes, right here - Yamacraw - fitting place for this,” said historian Dr. Jamal Touré, who leads tours in the Savannah and the Gullah Geechee Lowcountry area.

The Yamacraw Bluff area, just west of the Historic District, is not a place many tourists think about when they visit Savannah. For the past 70 years, the name Yamacraw has been associated with a rundown public housing project. But the area’s significance in the role to free Africans from slavery in the South cannot be understated, Touré said.

“The larger part of the story. That in April 1862 that Africans here are already were aware of Freedom,” he said.

Much of the Savannah-area work to end slavery can be traced to the historic First Bryan Baptist Church through missionaries led by ministers Garrison Frazier and Ulysses Houston. But at the start of the Civil War - calls to end slavery was led by a Yamacraw native - John C. Fremont. He was a U.S. Army general who fought in the Civil War, and the first to issue an emancipation order in 1861 to free those enslaved in the border state of Missouri where he lived at the time.

“A child born in Yamacraw will now be the first one who will say the Africans must be free and Lincoln will address him about that,” Touré said. “Then a year later you have someone David Hunter right here in Savannah, Georgia, Chatham County doing the same thing.”

In 1862, General David Hunter led the Union capture of Fort Pulaski and freed everyone enslaved there. He issued the order on April 13, 1862.

And then a month later - on May 9th - he issued another proclamation order to free everyone enslaved in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

“Lincoln is pissed off at Fremont and Lincoln’s pissed off at Hunter,” Touré said.

President Abraham Lincoln overturned Fremont and Hunter’s orders soon after they were issued. But historians agree it was Hunter’s actions that forced President Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation seven months later. For that reason, April 13 and May 9 of 1862 are the dates to celebrate in this part of the South, Touré said.

“1862 - so that’s powerful for some of us. And that’s a part of some of our family history,” he said. “Powerful stories. That yes we need to return back to. Why is that? So that we can now celebrate our ancestors properly. When we celebrate them properly guess what that means the next generation will now understand the fullness of their story. They will not buy into mythologies, but the history.”

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