a possible source for watch night President Lincoln near the end of the Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln, center, was the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally freed all enslaved persons. Its anniversary is celebrated at Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve services to this day.

The actual history of the annual Watch Night midnight vigil, held on the last day of each calendar year, is in some dispute among academics. The most popular take though is that sometime after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Dec. 31, 1862 (it became law the next day), many African American churches began merging the anniversary of this first promise of freedom from slavery with an annual practice of spiritual renewal set at each year’s end.

The newly freed men and women also referred to the last day on the calendar as, “Freedom’s Eve.”

Rick Cousins can be reached at rick.cousins@galvnews.com

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