Waiting for the Hour: Watch Night and the Emancipation Proclamation

The Gullah Geeche Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission is sponsoring a Corridor-wide celebration of the 155th anniversary of the official day, January 1, 1863, when enslaved people in the Low Country, the Sea Islands and throughout the United States emerged from bondage as a result of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Commission is working with leaders and individuals from the faith communities (of all denominations) and other community organizations throughout the Corridor to sponsor Watch Night and/or Emancipation Day Celebrations within churches and communities on the eve of January 1, 2018.  Though Watch Night has continued to be observed in one form or another in the Corridor, it would appear that its original tie to the Emancipation Proclamation has been largely lost. SC Humanities supported this programming with a Planning Grant in July 2017.

These community events will take place Sunday, December 31, 2017 and/or Monday, January 1, 2018.​  Gullah Geechee people, who have been a part of or have long memories of these traditional celebrations within their communities over the years, will educate others about the traditions, history and significance of what occurred on these days. In the process, this effort will facilitate wider acknowledgement, engagement, appreciation and application in our modern world while strengthening the interconnectedness of communities from which these customs and traditions flow. Ultimately, by coming together to celebrate Watch Night and Emancipation Day from a Gullah Geechee perspective, participants will learn priceless and powerful lessons about the human experience and how to transcend and transform our differences.  You can learn more about the program at www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org or by watching the program promotional video.

The growing list of participating organizations, up and down the corridor, that are opening their doors to the community to experience these traditions can be viewed on this document: Watch Night and Emancipation Day Participants.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 20-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

Image: Watch meeting, Dec. 31, 1862–Waiting for the hour/Heard & Moseley, Cartes de Visite, 10 Tremont Row, Boston: courtesy of www.loc.gov