publications

Emancipation Day



Family & friends of Robert H. Hannah on his homestead. “Picture taken by William H. Meehan at annual Emancipation picnic – 1st Sunday in August at Daddy Hannah’s homestead. 1921 or 1922.”



Emancipation Day, marking Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 proclamation abolishing slavery, was a significant holiday for Black Nebraskans. For former slaves and their descendants, September 22 was the real Independence Day. Although the Emancipation Proclamation signed on that date only affected slaves in Confederate states, and didn’t go into effect until January 1, 1863, Emancipation Day came to symbolize Black hopes for equality and justice.



Celebrations were organized in a number of Nebraska communities. One of the earliest was the 1878 fete held in Lincoln. There were parades to and from the special railroad coaches bringing speakers and celebrants to the city, a Lincoln brass band concert, a picnic, and a ball at the “Academy of Music.” Featured orators included Horace G. Newsom of Hastings, publisher of the state’s first Negro newspaper.



Nebraska City’s 1902 affair was even grander. A large contingent accompanied by a cornet band arrived from Omaha on the Missouri Pacific. They feasted at an ox roast at Morton’s Grove, and then tripped the light fantastic at a dance and cake walk at the Nebraska City Armory.



Valentine hosted its first Emancipation Day celebration the same year. Black soldiers and officers stationed at Fort Niobrara invited local citizens to join them in the observance. The local paper reported, “Emancipation Day was publicly celebrated in Valentine Monday afternoon for the first time. There was a misunderstanding about arrangements and the program, but order finally came out of chaos and the people listened to short interesting addresses by Chaplain Steward of Ft. Niobrara and our fellow townsmen Judge Walcott and Colonel Towle.”



The festivities helped to further good relations between townspeople and the troopers. The newspaper commented, “A more gentlemanly or better behaved lot of men never garrisoned at Fort Niobrara. If they could know the many compliments paid them on their conduct by Valentine citizens, they certainly would feel proud.”


Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.