The Rock Hill branch of the NAACP will start 2009 with a program celebrating the 1863 declaration that freed slaves.
The group's annual Emancipation Proclamation banquet starts at noon Thursday at Agape International Ministries on East White Street.
The gathering "reminds us of where we come from," said Melvin Poole, local chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It also lets us know that we still have work left to be done."
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the Civil War. The document declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
Although it failed to outlaw slavery in every part of the nation or immediately free slaves, the proclamation, according to the National Archives, fundamentally transformed the character of the war.
Poole said he expects the New Year's Day event to last about an hour. It will include singing and an explanation of the program's purpose. The group also will install newly elected officers. Lonnie Randolph, S.C. NAACP president, will be the keynote speaker.
"I like to think of (the event) as a lightning rod that draws us together," Poole said.
Want to go
Admission to the Rock Hill NAACP's Emancipation Proclamation program is free and open to anyone/ It starts at noon Thursday at Agape International Ministries, 145 E. White St.