Day of Jubilee

On New Year’s Day 1863, African Americans at Beaufort, S.C., witnessed the moment when the Emancipation Proclamation became law. Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson went before the assembled crowd and solemnly read the president’s proclamation. He remembered that “there suddenly arose . . . a strong but rather cracked & elderly male voice, into which two women's voices immediately blended

     "My country 'tis of thee
     Sweet land of Liberty

. . . the quavering voices sang on, verse after verse; others around them joined; . . . I never saw anything so electric; it made all other words cheap . . . the life of the whole day was in those unknown people's song.”

Reading Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (Front Cover)

Reading Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (Front Cover)

This booklet was produced in December 1862 specifically for Union soldiers to read and distribute among African Americans.
National Museum of African American History and Culture

Reading Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (Back Cover)

Reading Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation (Back Cover)

National Museum of African American History and Culture

“Reading the Emancipation Proclamation,” J. W. Watts, 1864

Reading the Emancipation Proclamation,” J. W. Watts, 1864

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration