Emancipation and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice

Moonstone Arts Center Presents

Emancipation & the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice

October 31 Through November 6, 2011

At The Moonstone Arts Center, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
& First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

Made Possible by Douty Foundation, Lomax Family Foundation, Pennsylvania Humanities Council

Our project is grounded by 150th anniversary of the firing of General John C. Fremont for issuing his own Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in Missouri. Fremont did this on August 30, 1861; Lincoln suggested and then ordered him to rescind the order, and when Fremont refused, Lincoln rescinded it on September 11 and then fired Fremont on November 2. We are exploring three issues in this series of programs: the historical facts of emancipation; the significance of citizen action in stimulating public policy; and the central role of Philadelphia as the southern-most northern city and center of the anti-slavery movement.


Monday October 31, 7pm – Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th Street
The Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice in Philadelphia
A discussion with Michael Coard, Jim Mueller & Larry Robin

Michael Coard is a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia and an adjunct professor in the African Studies Department and the Urban Studies Department at Temple University. He is a founding member of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC), president of the Philadelphia Millions More Movement, a former state board member of the ACLU, and a founding member of Judging The Judges, as well as a member of the National Lawyers Guild, the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Philadelphia Bar Association. He hosts the popular Afrocentric “Radio Courtroom” show on WURD-900AM. He will discuss the more current issues in the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice.

James Mueller has 42 years of experience in research archaeology, history and cultural resources management, 30 years in the National Park Service and ten years as chief historian at the Independence Hall National Historic Park in Philadelphia. He is editor/author of two books, many papers and essays including co-editing with Richard Antislavery and Abolition in Philadelphia: Emancipation and the Long struggle for Racial Justice in the City of Brotherly Love. He will supply the background and history of the Struggle for Racial Justice in Philadelphia.

Larry Robin is the co-founder of Moonstone,  Director of The Moonstone Arts Center and the organizer of the multi-year series on the People’s Civil War, of which Emancipation is part three. He will set the stage for the discussion, putting the program in context and discuss the origin of this series of programs.


Wednesday November 2, 2011, 6pm – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street
Emancipation and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice

Abraham Lincoln has been called The Great Emancipator and the issuance of The Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 certainly changed American history forever. It is important to understand that this act was neither the beginning nor the end of the emancipation process but was the tipping point. Lincoln struggled with and evolved his position on emancipation over a number of years and was moved toward Emancipation by pressure from the public, from “Radical Republicans” and from his staff and army.

November 2 is The 150th Anniversary of the Firing of General John C. Fremont for issuing his own Emancipation Proclamation. John C. Fremont was an explorer, a U.S. senator, the first Republican presidential nominee, a Union general, and the Radical Democracy presidential nominee. As major general commanding the Department of the West (headquartered in St. Louis) Fremont issued his own emancipation proclamation declaring all slaves in the State of Missouri free on August 30, 1861. President Abraham Lincoln first suggested, and then ordered Fremont to rescind the emancipation order. When Fremont refused, Lincoln then rescinded the emancipation order himself on September 11 and fired Fremont on November 2, 1861. These events help us understand the importance of citizen participation in the making of public policy.

Our panel discusses the history of the anti-slavery movement, of emancipation and self-emancipation, and the struggle for racial justice in Philadelphia both in history and today.

Michael Coard is a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia and an adjunct professor in the African Studies Department and the Urban Studies Department at Temple University. He is a founding member of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC), president of the Philadelphia Millions More Movement, a former state board member of the ACLU, and a founding member of Judging The Judges, as well as a member of the National Lawyers Guild, the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Philadelphia Bar Association. He hosts the popular Afrocentric “Radio Courtroom” show on WURD-900AM.

Robert F. Engs was undergraduate chair of the History Department and co-chair of the Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania (retired). He is author of Freedom’s First Generation: Black Hampton, Va., 1861-1890 and Educating the Disfranchised and Disinherited; Samuel Chapman Armstrong and Hampton Institute, 1839-1893 and co-edited with Randall Miller, The Rise of the Grand Old Party on the early years of the Republican Party. Professor Engs is a former Guggenheim and William Penn Fellow.  He is a recipient of the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Randall M. Miller, Professor of History and holder of the William Dirk Warren Sesquicentennial Chair at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, speaks often on national and regional politics and government; the Civil War and Reconstruction; power and class in America; Colonial and Revolutionary America; the history of immigration; ethnic and urban America; and slavery and the Old South. His knowledge of American history blends with his interest in modern politics to create a unique perspective. He is the co-editor of The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction As America’s Continuing Civil War.

James Mueller has 42 years of experience in research archaeology, history and cultural resources management, 30 years in the National Park Service and ten years as chief historian at the Independence Hall National Historic Park in Philadelphia. He is editor/author of two books, many papers and essays including co-editing with Richard Newman in 2011 Antislavery and Abolition in Philadelphia: Emancipation and the Long struggle for Racial Justice in the City of Brotherly Love.


Sunday November 6, 11am – First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut Street – Rev. Nate Walker has organized a service around our topic Emancipation and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice

The Unitarian Church was firmly Abolitionist in the nineteenth century and continues to be a progressive force in the twenty-first century. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian, started The Emancipation League in Boston as well as being one of John Brown’s most earnest supporters. The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia members were so passionately anti-slavery that they were attacked and forced to carry guns to church to defend themselves from pro-slavery forces.

As part of this special service, Larry Robin will discuss the People’s Civil War project of which this Emancipation is Part Three, James Mueller will present the history of the struggle for racial justice in Philadelphia and Michael Coard will talk about the ongoing struggle.


Emancipation and the Continuing Struggle for Racial Justice

Abraham Lincoln has been called The Great Emancipator and the issuance of The Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 certainly changed American history forever. It is important to understand that this act was neither the beginning nor the end of the emancipation process but was the tipping point. Lincoln struggled with and evolved his position on emancipation over a number of years and was moved toward Emancipation by pressure from the public, from “Radical Republicans” and from his staff and army.

We look at this issue now because November 2, 2011 is The 150th Anniversary of the Firing of General John C. Fremont for issuing his own Emancipation Proclamation.

John C. Fremont was an explorer of the American West, a U.S. senator (1850-1851), the first Republican presidential nominee (1851), a Union general, and the Radical Democracy presidential nominee (1864). At the onset of the Civil War, he took the assignment of commanding the Department of the West, headquartered in St. Louis, at the rank of major general. On August 30, 1861, Fremont declared free all slaves in the border State of Missouri whose owners did not swear loyalty to the Union. President Abraham Lincoln first suggested, and then ordered Fremont to rescind the emancipation order. When Fremont refused, Lincoln then rescinded the emancipation order himself on September 11 and fired Fremont on November 2, 1861.  This account is, of course, a simplification of a complicated history.

General David Hunter was the Union commander of the Department of the South, which consisted of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. One May 9, 1862, he issued an order freeing all the slaves in those states. Ten days later, President Lincoln nullified Hunter’s emancipation order, arguing that the general had exceeded his authority.

Abolitionists continued to advocate for emancipation on all levels: Thomas Wentworth Higginson started The Emancipation League in Boston; self-emancipation continued with formerly enslaved people moving through the Union lines and The Underground Railroad continued to operate. It is all of these efforts that finally lead to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t technically free anybody. Lincoln knew this, and he worked toward getting constitutional amendments passed to abolish slavery and guarantee citizenship for blacks. The amendments he pushed for were passed after his death, but were mostly hollow attempts at black citizenship.

The 13th Amendment (1865) abolished slavery but provided no citizenship for blacks.

The 14th Amendment (1868) prohibited states from taking away citizens’ rights without due process, but the Supreme Court decisions in the 1870s weakened blacks’ rights. This amendment would remain weak until the 1960s, when it became the basis for the Civil Rights movement.

The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibited discrimination of the right to vote based on race. In response, much of the South passed Black Codes (and later Jim Crow laws), which instituted poll taxes and literacy tests, excluding many former slaves. The black right to vote wouldn’t truly be realized in the South until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Thus, the struggle continues.

Efforts like these, actions by ordinary citizens, which precede the pronouncement and the passage into law of every advance in society, including The Emancipation Proclamation (1863), Voting for African American men (1870), Voting for Women (1920), Social Security (1935), Fair Labor Standards (1938), Voting Rights Act of 1968 and other issues facing us today.


Special thanks to our Partners: The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Art Sanctuary, Charles L. Blockson Collection of Temple University, The Civil War History Consortium, First Unitarian church of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Mother Bethel AME Church, The National Archives at Philadelphia, the School District of Philadelphia

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