In New York City, and for much of the rest of the world, January 1st is synonymous with the wild celebration which takes place annually in Times Square. It is almost universal that the transition of the calendar from December 31st to January 1st is known as New Years, and being a symbol of humanity’s chance to get a new start on life, it is fraught with meaning and emotion.
For one sector of our society, the African-American community, January 1st has a special added significance. That date is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the revolutionary document known as the “Emancipation Proclamation” in 1863. This coming New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of this great moment in American history.
This day may arguably be the greatest day in all the years of Lincoln’s tenure as president, perhaps even surpassing his delivery of the immortal speech at Gettysburg. On that day Lincoln signed a document that set free over 4 million slaves who were held in captivity in the southern region of the warring United States, obviously for the moment no longer united.
Lincoln believed that this act was beyond question the morally correct action to take at this time, saying that he was never more certain any time in his life that he had done the right thing. If slavery was not wrong, then nothing was wrong, Lincoln believed. The Proclamation of Emancipation transformed the Civil War from one of putting down a rebellion to a war of liberation.
This January 1st, whether you are going wild in Times Square or at some other party marking the new beginning each New Year’s Day symbolizes, remember the new beginning the slaves were granted by being awarded their freedom, and the new beginning our nation experienced by doing the right thing.