As a little boy, I was taught the Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights. It was important to be able to recite or say by hard, as we called it, these important documents. We were told we could need them to grow up and become voting citizens of the United States. Though blacks were not voting at the time, we were being taught these important documents. Any black desiring to vote would be told to recite the Constitution of the United States of America.
But voting aside, the thing for the children was the annual services held at big churches on Jan. 1 each year called Emancipation Proclamation Services. In Birmingham, Ala., it was always held at the Historic Sixteen Street Baptist Church, where the bombing death of four little girls brought worldwide attention to the civil rights movement.
The NAACP and the Baptist Ministers Fellowship would be in charge of the proclamation ceremony. The highlight of the program would be the children reciting the Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights. We would hear speeches on how President Abraham Lincoln fought hard to make it possible for blacks to be set free and just how far blacks had come as a people and how far they had to go.
Three years ago, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Detroit decided to try having this important date, Jan. 1, in the life of blacks celebrated again and educate many to the importance of the day. The church called for a worship service where there was speechmaking and education around the document called The Emancipation Proclamation.