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Emancipation Anniversary celebrates North Country abolitionists

Artist Robert Shetterly speaks to students and teachers at the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration on Nov. 30. Shetterly stands next to a portrait of Harriet Tubman. Shetterly's portraits of famous abolitionists were displayed throughout the celebration weekend.

Artist Robert Shetterly speaks to students and teachers at the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration on Nov. 30. Shetterly stands next to a portrait of Harriet Tubman. Shetterly's portraits of famous abolitionists were displayed throughout the celebration weekend. Photo by Katherine Clark.

— For the past 150 years, America has been through a major social change to try to create a climate where all races are equal regardless of color. The signing of the emancipation proclamation was the first step in putting the freedom of slaves on paper.

Jan. 1 will mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The John Brown Lives! organization put together a two-day event on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 for students, educators and general public across the North Country, “North Country Supports 21st Century Emancipation Proclamation,” at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid Heaven Hill Farm and a showing of “Glory” at the Palace Theater.

Martha Swan, Founder and Director of John Brown Lives said the weekend’s seminars inspired very rich dialogue between the guests.

“It was really stimulating and full of useful information,” Swan said. “It really brought the history out of the deep south and brought it to people in the North Country. It was a chance for people to see who else is out there working with interest to these questions of human equality today.”

When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the throes of the Civil War, he undoubtedly believed that it would sound the death knell for slavery. However, there are approximately 15,000 documented cases of modern day slavery and human trafficking in the United States today and 27 million people enslaved worldwide.

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., the great-great-great grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, spoke to visitors about how he continues to carry on the legacy of human equality and end modern day slavery through his organization, the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation.

Through his foundation, Morris has inspired students across the country to produce a New Proclamation of Freedom for the 21st century. He met with students and teachers to inspire them to be modern day abolitionists in the fight against human trafficking. Morris depicted the harsh conditions his relative Douglass endured to fight for his freedom and education.

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