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- Celebration of the First Anniversary of Freedom
Synopsis: On January 1st, 1866, Henry McNeal Turner was the keynote speaker at the Emancipation Day Celebration in August, Georgia. The coordinators of this event promoted it as the “First day of Freedom” and honored it by celebrating the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery. The excitement of day attracted many people both black and white, exhibiting a readiness to begin the strenuous process of building the South through Reconstruction efforts.
Celebration of the First Anniversary of Freedom
Held in Springfield Baptist Church
January 1, 1866
Containing an Outline of an oration Delivered on the occasion
by Chaplain Henry M. Turner
Gentlemen and Ladies, or Fellow Citizens, I should have said, we have assembled to-day under circumstances, unlike those of any other day in the history of our lives. We have met for the purpose of celebrating this, the first day of the New Year, not because it is the first New Years day we ever saw, but because it is the first one we ever enjoyed. O! how different this day from similar days of the past. The first day of January hitherto, was one of gloom and fearful suspense. The foundation of our social comforts hung upon the scales of apprehension, and fate with its decisions of weal or woe looked every one of us in the face, and dread forebodings kept in dubious agitation, every fleeting moment that passed. But today we stand upon no such sandy foundation. Uncertainty is no more the basis of our existence; we have for our fulcrum the eternal principles of right and equity.
Associated with the first day of January are peculiar interests, which in their accommodation to the world of colored men, will hereafter enshrine it in their affections with a deathless sacredness, forever and ever. This day which hitherto separated so many families, and tear-wet so many faces; heaved so many hearts, and filled the air with so many groans and sighs; this of all others the most bitter day of the year to out poor miserable race, shall henceforth and forever be filled with acclamations of the wildest joy, and expressions of ecstasy too numerous for angelic pens to note. Before this day, all other days will dwindle into insignificance with us, and the glory that shall environ it, will, compared with which, make hazy in appearance all other days God’s day accepted. It has been the custom of men in all ages to celebrate certain days in commemoration of certain achievements or national transactions. A few out of the many which are observed in some manner, are days which hold universal claim upon the observance of all men, and among them we may mention the Sabbath, and Christmas. True, the observance of those two heaven consecrated days, follow only in the wake of religious civilization, while all nations civilized or pagans, have their regular anniversaries, be the cause of the observance fictitious or real. But reverting to the customs of civilized nations, we will only name a few. The Sabbath day demands our attention first of all, in noticing those reckoned in the sacred catalogue. This day was hallowed and set apart by God himself, to be observed by all the inhabitants of the earth as a day of rest and of gratitude to God for the marvelous act which his Almighty flat performed, in standing out upon the unfathomable abyss of an eternal nonentity, and decorating the dismal caverns of old chaos with burning solars and rolling worlds. This act of Almighty greatness and wisdom, at first called forth the undying praises of the skies, and God perpetuated its sanctity on earth by hallowing the day of its final completion. That day remained sacred in the hearts of mankind for four thousand years. At the end of which time, God clothed his Son,-- the brightest jewel that glittered in the courts of Heaven—in the garb of humanity, and He left that throne for a while, which had not been vacated since the morn of eternity, and came to earth with his eternal attributes circumbounded by flesh and blood, endured a miserable life; died an ignominious death; robed death, hell, and the grave of their visionary trophies; and on the first day of the week rose from the dead to the joy of earth and ecstasy of Heaven, and changed the sanctity of the day, by virtue of the greater feat performed, from the seventh to the first day of the week, and for over eighteen hundred years, Christians of every tongue and every clime have kept it as a day of gratitude to Heaven for the triumphs of Emmanuel. This day above all others, holds the first claim upon all men irrespective of class or condition, a day upon which is stamped fadeless perpetuity.
2d. The next day which was important in the history of the civilized world was the first day of the year of Jubilee. Theologians have differed it is true, as to whether the claims of the jubilee were national or universal, whether its special bearings contemplated only the house of Israel, or religious humanity at large. However, on the day of its arrival, the blast of the trumpet and the blow of the rams horn, sent a thrill of universal joy among all the people, which was peculiarly intensified by the shouts of the bondman and the insolvent, because it was the day of the release of the former, and restoration of the property of the latter.
3d. Christmas, the day on which the birth of Christ is celebrated and his nativity recognized, has also been observed for many centuries, since the reign of Diocletian up to the present, if not before. Christian people and Christian nations everywhere have made it a day of special honor, nevertheless, thousands regard it as a day of desecration and festive revelry, while others run wild with drunkenness, and honor it with bacchanalian retorts. They treat the birth of Jesus with solemn contempt, and hundreds of church members regard it as a day to shake hands with sin, and compromise with crime.
4th. For the sake of brevity, we will only notice one or more days which have been honored for certain events that have changed the order of things in the nation’s history. For ages Catholicism had been the prevailing religion in England, but in consequence of some small opposition in the executive circles of the Government, Catesby and some other disappointed and desperate hearted Catholics, planned a scheme known as the ‘gunpowder plot,’ for the murder of the king and the destruction of both houses of parliament. It was resolved that Guy Fawkes, one of the number should set fire to a train of powder which they had prepared; they were all ready, and the 5th, of November 1605, was at hand, the day to which parliament was prorogued. But God averted the horrid catastrophe by its timely discovery, and gave Catholicism its death blow, and crowned the protestant faith with eternal honors which ever since has gathered strength with increasing years, till its mighty volume of sacred truths have spanned the broad Atlantic and dashed against American shores—not broken, but divided into religious orders of different faiths—and have swelled our valleys with notes of joy, and dotted our hills with rebounding praises. Thus, the 5th, of November, will ever stand prominent among the days of English commemoration.
5th. The 4th of July is especially familiar to every school boy in this our once cursed, but now blessed country. The white people have made it a day of gratitude and general rejoicing ever since 1776, consequently guns are fired; bells are rung; flags are raised; speeches are delivered, and every mode to express their feelings of pleasure is resorted to, because on that day they threw off the British Yoke, and trampled underfoot the scepter of despotic tyranny. They raised the standard of independence on that ever memorable day, and every man rallied to its support by the Declaration of Independence. An aged sire stood in the steeple of Independence Hall in the city of Philadelphia for hours with the iron tongue of a bell in his hand, shaking his head the while at the assembled multitude, when questioned upon matters relating to his mission. As soon as every name of that August assembly convened within was appended to that mighty document, which has ever since defied the world, a little boy shouted out ‘ring! ring!’ and with all the power of a freeman, he struck that bell one hundred blows, (the same number of days it took Abraham Lincoln to smelt out the ball of liberty, from September, 22nd, 1862, to January 1st, 1863,) and the bell in response chimed out the irons words engraved upon its rim, ‘Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and to the inhabitants thereof’ and thus the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, as seen by the ancient king, made its first revolution towards filling the whole world, as was then predicted, for I hold that America and her Democratic principles and institutions is the great stone which is spoken of by the prophet Daniel. I know that Theologians have interpreted that scripture to mean Messiah’s kingdom on earth. But consistency must be the rule of all true interpretation, prophetic or otherwise. Therefore if the image will not admit of spiritual interpretation, the stone that pulverized it will not. The first, second and third, Kingdoms represented by that Symbolic image have unquestionable passed away. And the fourth or the Roman empire now stands severed and disintegrated, making up the primary and petty kingdoms of Europe, and America blessed by the prayers of the Puritans; hallowed by the lives and influences of the pioneers of American civilization and consecrated by the blood of the revolutionary sires; founded upon free principles and recognizing equality in all men by the Declaration of Independence, is destined in the event of things to dethrone the proud monarchs of the old world, and snatch the mace of oppression from the now nervous grip of every despot in Europe, and then to teach the world that royal blood flows unobstructed through the veins of all men. This great Continent slept in the cradle of undisturbed for thousands of years. God seemed to have held it back for some important purpose, while Asia, Africa and Europe were the world’s theatres, and men of all sizes, colors and languages were playing out the drama of life. While nations were rising on the one hand and crumbling on the other, America laid quietly beneath her green bowers and blooming foliage. Her minerals, her exhaustless resources, rested in their beds of silence, and for ages they slept in peace from the hand of enterprise.
The Northmen, those mercenary adventurers from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, came over here five hundred years before the time, but God thwarted their designs, and sent them back, till America should get ripe. The Indian and the roving beasts, true, lived in herds and petty dynasties from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but they only fed the soil, preparatory to the introduction of enterprise. No gospel messengers went forth to herald the claims of the world’s Redeemer, not summons men to a sense of reason. At length Columbus came, and in his wake ten thousand followed. God removed the obstructions on the one side, and human genius clamored for the world on the other. Settlement and colony succeeded each other, as they ran from the land of fettered conscience, many claiming also a desire to Christianize the Indians, the aborigines, of this country. James Oglethorpe, one hundred and thirty years ago, came over with 120 immigrants—his leading idea being to teach the Indian—to this now blood stained State of Georgia. But he was only a drop in the bucket to the multitudes that came to other parts. God say this spirit in them and was pleased. The pilgrims to, long before that, had moored the May Flower to the edge of Plymouth Rock, and with knees bent and uplifted hands had consecrated this land to God, and to just and holy ends. The same year—two hundred and forty six years ago—avaricious greed had stolen twenty Negroes or sable children from Africa, and a Dutch ship entered the mouth of James river, and landed them at Jamestown in old bone-bleached Virginia, that State where hoarded guilt and hellish crime lie piled to mountain height; that State, like the mother of harlots, who has poisoned by her slave mart (Richmond, the blackest spot on God’s earth) all the other States of the South, and finally plunged them into an inextricable vortex, where unbridled vengeance stalked in gigantic strides, and wrote death upon all their institutions of injustice. However, resuming the subject again, this was the introduction of the slave trade and for many years it was kept up, meeting with the approbation of the most prominent men of the world. The early settlers of this country had run from outrage themselves, and had manifested a desire to civilize the heathen, and to build up an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, and to enact laws which would contemplate justice to all men. Therefore, God seeing the African stood in need of civilization, sanctioned for a while the slave trade—not that it was in harmony with his fundamental laws for one man to rule another, not did God ever contemplate that the Negro was to reduced to the status of a vassal, but as a subject for moral and intellectual culture. So God winked, or lidded eyeballs at the institution of slavery as a test of the white man’s obedience, and his obedience, and elevation of the Negro. The extremities of two colors, white and black, were now to meet, and embrace each other, and work out a great problem by the sanction of Heaven for the good of mankind. The African was, I have no doubt, committed to the care of the white man as a trust from God. That he should clear up the land, and pioneer the march of civilization, by agricultural labor and domestic pursuits is a fact about which I have no hesitancy in admitting. That the white man should have made him work and exacted so much daily toil as was commensurate with the necessities of life and the developments of the nation’s resources, was all in keeping with order and sense, for he was by virtue of his superior advantages, thereby, his superior in intellect, and the guardian of the Negro. But that the white man should bar all the avenues of improvement, and hold the Black as he would a horse or a cow; deface the image of God by ignorance, which the black man was the representative of was the crime which offended Heaven. We gave the white man our labor, yes! Every drop of sweat which oozed from our face he claimed as his own. In return, he should have educated us, taught us to read and write at least, and to have seen that Africa was well supplied with missionaries. Their Doctors of Divinity should have told them, that we had rights, and the people must respect them. Had ministers exhausted half the learning and study in showing the white people their duty to the Negro as a trust from God, that they have in trying to prove the divine right of slavery, Africa would have been two-thirds civilized today, and the nation twice as wealthy, and the bones of a million of our country men would not now lie bleaching over every Southern State.
The Fourth of July—memorable in the history of our nation as the great day of independence to its countrymen—had no claims upon our sympathies. They made a flag and threw it to the heavens, and bid it float forever; but every star in it was against us; every stripe against us; the red, white and blue was against us; the nation’s constitution was against us; yes! Every State constitution; every State code; every decision from the supreme court down to the petty magistrate; and worse than all every church was against us; prayer and preaching was against us—enough to make us fall out with God himself. And why was it? We had always been loyal. The first blood spilt in the revolution for the nation’s freedom, was that of Crispus Attacks, a full blooded Negro. A Negro, then, was the pioneer of that liberty which the American people hold so dear. England tried all through the revolutionary war to make us traitors to our country, but failed; we stood firm then and are firm still. Was it then because we were not really human that we have not been recognized as a member of the nation’s family? Are we not made as other men? Have we not all the bones, muscles, nerves, veins, organs and functions that other men have? Are there any difference in our women? White men can answer that question better than us. And so far as intellect is concerned, are we not as susceptible of improvement as they are? Cannot we learn anything they can? If we cannot, why make it a crime to be found teaching a Negro? for it was a penitentiary act in this State, though it was not unlawful to teach a horse to read and write. But the whites not only refuses to teach us themselves, but refuses to let us learn at all if they could prevent it; at least law was against it, which was argument enough. They seem to have forgotten that they were shutting up in darkness, by refusing intellectual development, that immortal spirit; that undying principle; that spark of Deity which was created with exhaustless resources, with a mind, though minute at present, will one day swallow down, or comprehend the mysteries of the universe. Oh! Slavery, thou horrid monster! Thy days are numbered! Thou wast a curse to this nation; but far in the distance I hear the last sounds of thy rumbling departure, saying, gone! Gone! Forever, gone!” Had the white people treated slavery as trust from God, it would never have ended in a terrible war. It would have gone on until it became a social burden. It would have passed away so imperceptibly that not one would have felt the shock; more like a weary man going to sleep. But the way it was treated, and the ends to which it was appropriated, was an insult to God. And nothing less than floods of his burning fire and the thunders of his scathing judgment, poured out upon the guilty heads of the violators of this law, and crimsoned acres of ground with the heart’s gore of tens of thousands, could satisfy divine justice, and make slavery despicable in the eyes of a country which had loved it so dearly and nurtured it so long. Men, yes—men of every rank and position—had become darkened to the true status of manhood, because worldly gain lay at the bottom of all his moral considerations.
Those that should have taught the people equity, have exhausted life in ransacking history to prove that the curse of Noah, pronounced upon Canaan, was a legitimate assignment of the colored race to perpetual servitude. And when history failed to support that abominable theory—for we are not of the posterity of Canaan, if the curse was worth anything at all (which I emphatically deny) ---it does not affect us as a people, because we came through the lineage of Cush, and we have no more to do with Noah’s malediction upon the posterity of Canaan, than we have with Isaac’s blessing upon the posterity Jacob—when all these visionary theories were blown to the wind, they then resorted to the customs of the dark and crude ages of the world. They built air kingdoms of slavery from the servants of Abraham, not knowing that Abraham was a king or commanding patriarch, and these ‘so called’ servants were his subjects, and obedience to the orders of the chieftain was the rule of that age, as it was for centuries afterwards. Others would eternally anathematize Ham and his whole posterity, and assign them a place among chattels; but let it be remembered, henceforth and forever that they were the first great men of the world. They founded the first cities and formed the first empires; they were the greatest generals, and the greatest mechanics; they carried the alphabet first to proud Greece; and the mathematical problems of Euclid still puzzle the world; besides, we count three hundred black bishops in the Primitive Church.
But it is useless to prowl through ancient history to prove our manhood; go to the bloody fields that have been reddened by gallons of the richest blood that ever coursed its way through the veins of man. Ask those bleaching bones which lie strewn around Petersburg and Richmond of my own brave regiment; then visit Port Hudson, Fort Wagoner, and a hundred other scenes of carnage, where black troops fought, bled and died, why are you here? And the answer will come loud as thunder, ‘Give me Liberty or give me Death,’ That was all they wanted, and it is all we want. Unlike the white man—we have no desire to enslave them or deprive them of their oath, disfranchise them, or to expatriate them. All we want is our rights in common with other men, and let them have theirs’. When the nation first called upon the colored men to rally to its flag, a howl and a whine was raised North and South that, ‘If you arm the Negroes, you can never discipline them; they will be cannibals, kill all the women and children and eat them into the bargain.’ But at length the Negroes were armed, and Ethiopia stretched for her hands in faith to God with a musket in them. Twelve hundred of us were placed on a bend of the James River, known as Wilson’s Landing. Shortly afterwards, Gen. FitzHugh Lee came down upon us with twenty-five men. As soon as he drove in our pickets, a flag of truce was sent in to demand a surrender of the place or he would take it, and death should be the penalty of our refusal. We however defied his army, so he opened the contest, which raged in fearful suspense for the space of four hours. He charged us three times, and finally left, leaving three hundred dead and wounded on the field. These Negro cannibals (for I was one) went out, took up his wounded, carried them to our hospital and treated them kindly. White man, show a better heart.
The fact is, we have a better heart than the white people. We want them free and invested with all their rights. We want to treat them kindly and live in friendship; yet, I must say, as I believe, that as soon as old things can be forgotten, or all things become common, that the Southern people will take us by the hand and welcome us to their respect and regard. I look forward to the day when the white people of the South will not exhibit one half the prejudice they do North, for they know us, and we know them; but at present they are peevish, because they think themselves subjugated, while the poorer class never did like us at best. It was also said that the colored people contemplated a cold blooded insurrection during the Christmas holidays, and several of our white friends, I learn, had grave apprehensions about its possibility. I knew then, as I know now, that it was all a piece of nonsensical fudge. What have we to insurrect for? Are we not free and eternally free, and do we not know it? Away with such a hallucination! We never insurrected when we had something to insurrect for.
It was also said, and Southern fanatics rode that hobby everywhere, ‘That if you free the Negro he will want to marry our daughters and sisters,’ that was another foolish dream. What do we want with their daughters and sisters? We have as much beauty as they? Look at our ladies, do you want more beauty than that?
All we ask of the white man is to let our ladies alone, and they need not fear us. The difficulty has heretofore been our ladies were not always at our own disposal.
But we have met today for the purpose of mingling our congratulation, and tendering our gratitude to the Great Disposer of events, that we, to, have a day reckoned in the catalogue of anniversaries, in which we can assemble, rejoice and feel our manhood. Previous to this, every day belonged to those who claimed our bodies; but now as freemen, we meet to celebrate the day of our great deliverance. Three years ago, Abraham Lincoln—a name dear to the black man—stood in the might of God’s approval, and hurled with the force of omnipotence itself the ball of liberty against the fabric of slavery, and it vanished, leaving only a vestige of its wreck which has been lately swept away by the constitutional amendment. Slavery is now dead and buried, leaving its millions of bruised and mangled victims to tread the face of God’s earth to the music freedom. Today, we celebrate the dawn of liberty, and dance for joy at the pledge of its security. Unborn millions will rise to swell the notes of emancipation, and tune its melody by the chants of the redeemed. The oppressed of every nation will join the chorus, and Heaven’s great organ will lend it harmony. The gray headed sires who died in its faith, will spread through immensity the glories of its triumphs, and lavish its trains with fadeless laurels. The heroes of the Union, whose blood was spilt for liberty, shall have fragrant names, and precious memories, and their noble examples will stand as a monument of honor, to inspire the just till the world shall end.
This is a day of special gratitude to heaven for many blessings which follow in the exit of slavery.
1st. This is a day of gratitude for the privilege of meeting as other people. Heretofore, we could not meet without being under the supervision of some white man. We were watched, feared and suspicioned. Three colored men could make a threat, and five hundred white men would rush to arms. The whites should thank God with us, for now they can rest quietly, they have no fears of being murdered, nor have they to sit up all night to watch us; no patrol duty to perform; not fears of us running away. They ought to thank God that they are relieved of that burden, and we of our fears—neither party having watch the other, but all can attend to their own business.
2d. This is a day of gratitude for the general destruction of slavery; for slavery was a reactionary curse. It rebounded back upon the white man, while it degraded the status of the black. This trafficking in human blood, buying and selling, separating man and wife, parents and children, hardened the hearts and numbed the conscience of the whites and made them cruel and wicked. It petrified their sympathies and deadened their fine sense of justice and made their moral ideas a blank scroll. The result was, they were not near so benevolent in charitable acts as they should have been; consequently, thousands of white children grew up in their midst without any education for the want of free schools. On the other hand, it tended to make us thievish because we regarded it right to filch what we should have had as the reward of our labor. It also tended to make us untruthful, telling lies to escape punishment, or to deceive our owners for some personal comfort which our best men would regard as a necessary prerequisite.
3d. This is a day of gratitude for the freedom of schools. Heretofore, law and rule closed against us books of every description. The Bible, God’s eternal will and requirements was a sealed book. His pledge, his sacred truth, and all the guarantees of his grace were bared and belted against us by the law of the land. Education the handmaid of religion, God’s great articulative organ of communication, hung palsied in the scales of prejudice, or was looked up by the greed of worldy gain. But now the channels of learning are free to all; we only have to launch our vessel and sail in its current to the port of distinction: Our big men, heretofore, were Barbers, Tailors, Bootmakers and Carriage drivers. If we saw John driving our ‘Massa and Missus,’ O! how we coveted his big position. But now our big men can be Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, Astronomers, Chemists &c.
4th. This is a day of gratitude for the freedom of mind. Heretofore our immeasurable intellects were also enslaved—that is the most damning feature of slavery. But now with a mind, mighty in its resources, though, at present undeveloped we can prowl through Heaven, earth and hell, and claim their extensions as domain of its play. Problems will be made plain, and mysteries will lay bare their long entombed wonders.
5th. This is a day of gratitude for the freedom of matrimony. Formerly there was not security for domestic happiness. Our ladies were insulted and degraded with or without their consent. Our wives were sold, and husbands bought, children were begotten and enslaved by their fathers, we therefore were polygamists by virtue of our condition. But now we can marry and live together till we die, and raise our children and teach them to fear God, O! black age of dissipation, thy days are nearly numbered.
6th. This is a day of gratitude for the freedom of the Gospel. Formerly the Southern ministers were chained or curbed in proclaiming the mandates of Heaven. If one felt disposed to preach the full meaning of the text ‘to do to all men as you would have them to do to you,’ he trembled, feared, and flayed. The learned men of the world were shut out from the South. You could not preach the pure gospel, nor any one else. God’s word had to be frittered smeared and smattered to please the politics of slavery. The key of the Gospel was held by the hand of slavery, but now as slavery is dead and its dungeon opened by Abraham Lincoln the Hercules of freedom, the angel of the cross can fly forever with a free Gospel to all men.
7th This is a day of gratitude for the freedom of labor. Heretofore our chief study was how to do the least work possible and escape punishment. Labor was not sweetened by reward—it was forced from us. We believed that no man had a right to build fine houses, and revel in pomp and splendor on the sweat of our face, while we dragged out an existence in tattered want and destitution. But now we can work with all the muscle of a freeman. Will you not do it? I believe you will, and now as labor is popular, and it being man’s normal position, let us show the world we can perform it
8th. This is a day of gratitude for the pledge of the nation to the eternal security of all the blessings, and others that I have not time to mention. The nation’s great emblem is no longer against us, for we claim the protection of the Stars and Stripes. The glories of its fadeless escutcheon will ever bid us go free. Its mighty forts, guns, and magazines, have Liberty engraved upon their thundering music. The constitution has covenanted with us for mutual protection, it says, ‘save me should a foul hand attempt to desecrate my folds, and I will save you from the iron heel of oppression.’
The superstructure known as Might, which lifted its hydra-heads to the very clouds, and spit venom in the face of every black man, was struck on the 1st, day of January 1863, by the thunder bolt of emancipation hurled from the Juno hands of Abraham Lincoln, and America trembled under the shock of the dread stroke, and all the world wondered, nevertheless right long crushed, enslaved, and outraged, rose from the ruins of its terrific fall, grasping the mace of Independence, and the helmet of Justice, brandished it with a gleaming flourish, and the nations of earth stood palsied at the scene. Greece may boast of her Solon, Rome of her Brutus, England of her Crowell, France of her Bonaparte, and America of her Washington. But the name of Lincoln, lettered in gold, pictured in silver, engraved in the diamond, and fringed by the tints of the sunbeam with the pencil of Raphael, then hung out in the azure concave of with the fadeless brand of freedom for its base, will be glory enough to inflame our souls and swell the joys of the Negro race forever and ever, world without end.
But I must stop, and before doing so, let me say that I have not referred to the cruelty of slavery to incite your passions against the white people. I have done so in order to tell you for what we had reason to thank God and hold this day in special remembrance. To the contrary let us love the whites, and let bygones be bygones, neither taunt nor insult them for past grievances, respect them; honor them; work for them; but still let us be men. Let us show them we can be a people, respectable, virtuous, honest, and industrious, and soon their prejudice will melt away, and with God for our father, we will all be brothers.
 In the American South, on “Slaves’ New Year”/“Hiring Day,” slaves were hired out on January 1st for an entire year. It was when the sales and hiring traditionally took place. The next day, usually on January 2nd, the enslaved were delivered to their new place of work until the following Christmas Eve. Obviously, January 1st would be a day filled with anxiety and dread for the enslaved. The waiting to find out if they or their loved one had been hired out for the year-and by whom-would be a time of great concern.
Turner, Henry McNeal. Celebration of the First Anniversary of Freedom. The Henry McNeal Turner Project. (1866, January 1). http://www.thehenrymcnealturnerproject.org/2019/03/synopsis-on-january-1st-1866-henry.html