ROCK HILL — The cheers were said to be thunderous that New Years Day as slaves and abolitionists heard news that their president had signed a decree of moral reckoning, etching into history a justice they had longed for that all persons held as slaves ... are, and henceforward shall be free.
Though years passed before freedom spread across a young nation fractured by civil war, that day, Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation laid the footing for a way forward.
A hundred and fifty years later, cheers and praise hymns thundered through a Rock Hill church as a crowd of about 115 people gathered to celebrate and reflect on that path.
It was the Rock Hill NAACPs annual Jubilee Day, which commemorates Lincolns signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Members and observers gathered at First Calvary Baptist Church for, as NAACP President Melvin Poole put it, a day for reflection, rededication, and celebration of our heritage.
In a fiery sermon, Rev. William Buie, Jr. cast emancipation and successive civil rights victories as Gods work, then challenged the black community to step up beyond celebration.
We ought to be praising God, Buie said. But weve got to do more than come together and sing happy songs.
God wants a return on his investment. God put something in African American people and his expectation is that well do more with what he gave us.
Buie condemned complacency and urged the crowd to perform acts of justice and to show mercy to others.
Weve got to do justice and stop begging for justice, he bellowed. We cant go to city hall and call for justice when weve got a church on every corner, but folks are hungry around the corner.
The crowd cheered in approval.
Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072