Tonya Steward and Jim Trumm, both of Toledo, act in a scene from ‘Watch Night Jubilee’ by New Works Writers Series at the downtown Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
With Black History Month coming to a close, some residents are focusing on a special anniversary this year, the 150-year anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
And Toledoans have proud moments in this part of history.
“This event is important because it celebrates not only African-American history, but American history. Also, Toledo residents should be interested in this history because Ohio and the Toledo area played a significant role in the fight against the institution of slavery,” Angela Siner, an instructor at the University of Toledo, said.
The Emancipation Proclamation, signed on Jan. 1, 1863, did not end slavery. That occurred after the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865.
The Toledo area was an important station on the Underground Railroad, especially for routes that went to Detroit and then into Canada.
Local historian Gaye Gindy said that Sylvania’s Lucian and Larissa Lathrop hid escaping slaves in their basement. The Lathrop House, originally at 5362 Main St., was relocated to nearby Harroun Community Park in 2004 after a tug-of-war between the city of Sylvania and St. Joseph Catholic Church, the house’s previous owner.
Ms. Siner, an instructor of sociology and anthropology, hosted a family program Saturday at the Main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown that detailed the proclamation’s rich history. She spoke of some lesser-known details, such as “the fact that [the government] welcomed black soldiers into the war, both the Army and Navy, and that 180,000-200,000 would serve and help the Union victory.”
Ms. Siner called the Emancipation Proclamation one of the country’s most important documents.
The Kent Branch library’s Art Tatum African-American Resource Center has made a facsimile of the document, which hangs in a doorway window.
Having the copy on display is just one of many initiatives of the library to celebrate the 150th anniversary.
Brett Collins, librarian specialist at the center, said the display is valuable for forging a real-world connection to history.
“Having it up reminds us just that slavery didn't end that long ago,” he said. “It’s only been 15 decades, not a long time in the grand scheme of things.”
President Abraham Lincoln’s face is superimposed on the 2-foot by 6-foot copy of the document, and Mr. Collins said the design helps illuminate its importance. Lincoln issued the proclamation, which applied only to the states that had seceded from the Union.
“You can see it from the other end of the building. Although it didn’t end slavery across the board, it’s still a landmark document,” he said.
The copy will remain on display for the rest of the year. School groups have toured the center to see it as well as regular library visitors.
Mr. Collins said seeing the document helps its meaning register with more people.
“There’s so much in the news, you don’t really get the opportunity to see it that much. Of course, the President has one on display in the White House. This is a way to have it local. Standing there, just seeing it life-size, makes it easier to read,” he said.
Ms. Siner’s Saturday presentation also touched on the March on Washington in 1963, which protested racial discrimination and pushed for civil rights and better economic conditions.
“One hundred years later, African-Americans and the nation were once again grappling with the issues of freedom and equality,” she said.
“The March on Washington was the largest demonstration in the nation’s capital, 250,000 individuals from all over the nation, of every region, race, creed, and religion, including, I’m sure, some Toledo residents, marching for jobs and freedom,” she said.
In the end, the professor said the Emancipation Proclamation and the march on Washington are important for people to discover.
“Both events were transformative, and we should all want to know more,” Ms. Siner said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at: email@example.com or 419-724-6522.