Organizers are gearing up for the annual Emancipation Day event at Neosho's Scenic Drive Park on Saturday. People will begin arriving at 3 p.m. for the event, which will last into the evening.
"The reason for the celebration is Emancipation Day — we celebrate here we call it Freedom Day — is when the slaves in the Missouri region actually received word that they were actually freed," said Lionel Smiles, co-chairperson of the event.
Smiles said slaves in this region didn't learn President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the Confederacy, until August of 1865. The 13th Amendment, which freed all remaining slaves in the United States, was ratified on Dec. 8, 1865.
The event is open to the public and includes food, bingo, a car show, a music beat competition, exhibits, fireworks and possibly a medical helicopter landing in the park.
"We are going to try to have [the medical helicopter] land," he said. "They are going to try to be there around 5:30 p.m. And about the beat contest, that is where people will bring their amps and music out and see how much noise they can make that evening."
Smiles said the annual event has drawn a great attendance over the years. Asked why this event is important, he noted it is a time of remembrance.
"Basically, it is a time for the kids — it is all about the youth right now — that they remember black history, that they don't forget the things that happened in the past," he said. "They (famous African Americans) basically paved the way for those of us today, to be where we are at today. Mom is always saying, 'whose shoulders are you standing on because you just never know what you might bring to someone later on down the road.' It is very important for all races to recognize and to be a part of because this was just not about abolishing the slavery of blacks, it was about abolishing of all nationalities in the continental U.S."
Some of the black historical sites in Neosho include a church and a school.
Smiles said the role of the black church cannot be understated. For example, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, today known as Second Baptist Church, was just one of several black churches in the area. Remnants are still visible at the cemetery north of Neosho.
Another important building here in Neosho is the Lincoln School.
"We pay tribute to the roles and contributions to those who have enriched our society," Smiles said in an earlier interview with the Neosho Daily News. "Lincoln School was an all-black school in Neosho. Some of the remaining students, including Ida Smiles and Norma Wright, still reside in our community. One of the most prominent students of this school was George Washington Carver, who also attended this school during his childhood years."
Page 2 of 2 - For more information about the upcoming event, contact 592-6846.