A long-standing local tradition, Emancipation Day, takes place this Saturday, Aug. 4, at Scenic Park in Neosho. The celebration has a history, both local and national.

A long-standing local tradition, Emancipation Day, takes place this Saturday, Aug. 4, at Scenic Park in Neosho. The celebration has a history, both local and national.

On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, freeing all slaves held in any of the rebel states (since slavery had already been abolished in the Northern states). Since rebel states didn't heed to United States law and because news traveled slowly in the 1860s, many didn't receive the news for more than two years.

It wasn't until August 1865 that African Americans in the area embraced the news and gathered to hear the Emancipation Proclamation recited. They celebrated with a feast, music, and dance to celebrate the news that would forever change their lives.

Emancipation Day, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates freedom and the equal rights of all cultures. The observance also celebrates African-American freedom and achievements while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, became official on January 1, 1863 but all remaining slaves, including those in Texas were not freed until June 19, 1865.

In most states, Emancipation Day is observed on or around the day that each individual state gained emancipation from the federal government and when word of emancipation reached slaves in those areas. In southwest Missouri, Emancipation Day has long been observed in early August. That;s when slaves in the area first learned that they had freedom.

Around 1900, there were some Emancipation Day celebrations held in Neosho, at Island Park, but at some point the custom ended until Lionel Smiles, Neosho, revived it 17 years ago. Joplin has long held an Emancipation Day celebration but Smiles felt it was time to bring it back to Neosho.

This year's Emancipation Day in Neosho will be held on Saturday, Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. until late evening. There will be food, music, and dance, free to all. The community is invited to share the celebration and join the traditions.

Scenic Park is located at 1500 North Main Avenue in Neosho.

For more information, contact Ida Smiles at 417-451-1887.