Annual Emancipation Day sought -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on Feb. 4, 2013.

Lawmakers from Prince George's and Montgomery counties want the state to formally celebrate the day Maryland’s slaves were freed nearly 150 years ago.

A bill co-sponsored by Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly and Sen. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville calls for the governor to annually proclaim Nov. 1 to be Maryland Emancipation Day, in honor of the date in 1864 when slaves in the state were declared free by a new state Constitution.

“Freedom is at the core of our identities as Marylanders and Americans,” Montgomery said in a statement. “It’s fitting that we mark this turn in a struggle that continues through generations.”

Though a slave state, Maryland was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War and was not one of the states in which slaves were freed  by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. When the new Constitution was adopted in 1864, Maryland became the first slave state to abolish the practice by popular vote.

“It is important that we remember that great day of liberation and jubilee, when nearly 90,000 Marylanders finally became free,” Ivey said in a statement.

Emancipation Day commemorations are regularly held in the state, including re-creations of Underground Railroad trails in Montgomery County and tours of a home in Brookeville occupied by free black families after emancipation.

The House bill, which has 80 co-sponsors, is scheduled to get a committee hearing Feb. 6. The Senate version has nine co-sponsors and will have a committee hearing Thursday.

The story had a wrong date for the Emancipation Proclamation. It was in 1863. dleaderman@gazette.net