Watch Night — Celebrating Freedom’s Eve

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December 31, 1862 — On that night, black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across America awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law of the land. The Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.”

At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.