Retired Navy Commander Owen Corpin of Peterboro will lead the Peterboro commemoration of Watch Night for Emancipation at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. During the night of December 31, 1862, African Americans congregated in homes, meeting halls, and churches in the North and in secret locations in the Confederacy to “watch” for the coming of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 which would deliver them from slavery.
On that first day of 1863 President Abraham Lincoln did present the Emancipation Proclamation. The preliminary draft of that document in Lincoln’s handwriting was briefly owned by Gerrit Smith of Peterboro and is now a treasured document in the New York State Museum in Albany.
Corpin, a member of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Cabinet of Freedom in Peterboro, and a descendant of 19th Century freedom seekers who came to Peterboro, will commence the program at 4 p.m. at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY, with information, history, freedom readings, songs, and traditional fellowship.
The Emancipation Proclamation provided for the recruitment of African-Americans to the Union Army. African-Americans who served in the Civil War will be recognized during the Watch Night programs with the 35 star flags. These flags were used to commemorate these soldiers at the 22nd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend in June 2013 and at the Peterboro Cemetery during Emancipation Days 2013. Corpin will then lead attendees to the hamlet green and, beside the Civil War monument, light the watch fire. The Deli on the Green will be open for the occasion.
The public is encouraged to join in this free Sesquicentennial observance of the Emancipation Proclamation. More information can be found at www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.