Alabama’s capital city starts new year with Emancipation Day

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s capital city is marking the new year by celebrating Emancipation Day.

On Jan. 1, 1866, Montgomery began recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation, signed three years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln to declare freedom for “all persons held as slaves.”

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton is speaking Tuesday at an event hosted by the Emancipation Association of Montgomery, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

“Our theme is, ‘The future is now, the dream continues,'” said local historian Richard Bailey, president of the city’s Emancipation Association. “The primary purpose of the event is to highlight the role the Emancipation Proclamation played . and just what emancipation means to African-Americans in particular and to the general population at large.”

Melton joins a line of distinguished Emancipation Day speakers that includes Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights attorney Fred Gray and civil rights activists Fred Shuttlesworth and Joseph Lowery.

Bailey said Melton was chosen because of his speaking ability and because he is just the third black mayor of Selma, where the Edmund Pettus Bridge represents the march for freedom during the civil rights movement.

Three community fixtures are being honored.

Henry Orum was a track star at the University of Alabama and has spent decades teaching special needs students in Montgomery Public Schools.

Delta Sigma Theta sorority often organizes debates and get-out-the-vote efforts for elections.

F.D. Reese was the architect of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march. He died in 2018.

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