The ‘8th of August’ is a day that holds special meaning for some Kentucky communities. It’s a time to remember emancipation and celebrate freedom.
It’s considered the day African-Americans in western Kentucky heard about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 as a presidential order, but it wasn't until December 1865 that Congress ratified the 13th Amendment that permanently abolished slavery in the United States.
Nancy Dawson, who lives in Russellville and is a former professor and director of African-American studies at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., said emancipation is a part of history that everyone in the United States should remember.
Dawson said it's important not just for the African-American community, but for all citizens because it’s American history. She said we remember issues like slavery and emancipation so we understand the circumstances surrounding them, so the actions that are below the ideals of our democracy won't be repeated again.
“I think particularly now, it’s more important than ever before for us to remember, because we’re in a period in history, as we had been in before in the 1960s and 1970s, where race is a key issue,” said Dawson.
Kentucky communities that celebrate emancipation on the 8th of August include Russellville, Hopkinsville, Paducah and the town of Allensville in Todd County.
Dawson said in the past, the day was so important in some African-American communities that people would not work on that day. Now the ‘8th of August’ is usually celebrated on the nearest weekend with church services, history programs, pageants or parades.
In Tennessee, Clarksville also celebrates on the 8th of August. In other states, the day is known as Juneteenth and celebrated on the 19th of June.