In commemoration of the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a pivotal document in American history, the Cultural Museum of African Art (CMAA) reflects on its significance. This executive order, issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, granted freedom to enslaved Black individuals in rebellious states. While slavery persisted in other parts of the nation, the Emancipation Proclamation represented a crucial turning point in the arduous struggle to abolish slavery nationwide.
Even prior to the establishment of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans, whether enslaved or free, grasped the profound meaning and importance of freedom. They resisted the shackles of slavery and actively pursued liberty through various means—through their thoughts, words, and actions. Faith served as a cornerstone for Black individuals, providing moments of meditation and envisioning a future free from bondage. Their voices, conveyed through oral and written traditions such as speeches, sermons, news articles, abolitionist pamphlets, and other printed publications, were instrumental in shaping the discourse on freedom and its universal application. These brave individuals seized opportunities for liberation, whether by fleeing enslavement or striving earnestly for their emancipation.