KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One hundred and fifty-seven years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that slaves in Confederate states were free, a Knoxville organization came together on January 1 to celebrate.
The Knoxville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) along with several church community groups came together on Wednesday morning at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Reverend Harold Middlebrook, who once stood with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., began the event seven years ago to make sure people remember "that our foreparents went through all kinds of hardships, all kinds of abuse, in order to get us to this point."
Keynote speaker and Project GRAD CEO Ronni Chandler said she wants young people to remember their ancestors, their struggles and their hopes.
"I want them to remember to go back and get the mindset of freedom," Chandler said.
One attendee, 14-year-old Arianna, spoke about the impact of slavery, racism and what she felt about the service. "My ancestors went through a lot," she said. Amyrical said the event, "taught me about how the slaves got free and how to live their lives."
Though Lincoln's proclamation was historic, it wasn't until June 19, 1865, after the Union won the Civil War, that the rule to free slaves in former-Confederate states began to be enforced.
June 19 is also a historic time and has become a national day of remembrance for many known as Juneteenth.
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