CHICAGO (CBS) — On this New Year’s Day, Rev. Jesse Jackson is launching a campaign to have the holiday remembered not for resolutions and football, but rather for freedom.
He’s calling it “Emancipation Day,” according to CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley.
At the Rainbow/PUSH headquarters, a human resource consulting firm, Rev. Jackson celebrated President Abraham Lincoln’s ultimatum to the south.
“Either you join the union, or I will free the slaves. I will end or disrupt your economy.”
Monday marks the 164th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation.
“It is our ticket out of slavery; it is our ticket to freedom,” Jackson said.
And today, it’s almost forgotten.
The proclamation came on the heels of the bloodiest single day in American history, when more than 22,700 were killed in the Battle of Antietam.
Perceived as a union victory, it gave Lincoln the license for another stunning decision he’d considered for months.
The historic words were read New Year’s Day by Chicago Public School students.
“That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, 1,863, all persons held as slaves,” began Sutherland School 4th grader Carleigh Lewis.
“… within said designated states and parts of states are and henceforward shall be free,” continued Rebecca Reid, a junior at Whitney Young High School.
The emancipation proclamation is a document that still carries such power, that in 2012, when it was shown at the Henry Ford Museum for just 36 hours, more than 22,000 visitors piled in. Some waited eight hours for the privilege.
And Jackson says he understands why.
“The end of slavery was the singular most significant event in American life. Ending slavery gave us moral authority. It ended the oppressing of a people — it ended a slave trade and slave labor,” he said.
Jackson added that the importance of that history should not be lost, as African Americans endured slavery for longer than enjoying freedom.