Watch Night, also known as Freedom’s Eve, is a tradition that dates back to 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. On December 31st of that year, slaves gathered in churches and homes across the United States to wait for the stroke of midnight, which marked the beginning of their freedom.
In the Gullah Geechee Corridor, which includes parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Watch Night celebrations have a special meaning. The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of West African slaves who were brought to the coastal regions of the southern United States. Their culture and traditions have been preserved and passed down through generations, and Watch Night is an important part of that heritage.
If you’re interested in experiencing a Watch Night event in the Gullah Geechee Corridor, there are several options to choose from. One popular destination is Beaufort, South Carolina, where the Penn Center hosts a Watch Night celebration every year. The event includes music, dancing, food, and a candlelight procession to the nearby Emancipation Oak, where the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the local community in 1863.
Another option is to visit St. Helena Island, also in South Carolina, which hosts a Watch Night event at the historic Brick Baptist Church. The church dates back to 1855 and was a gathering place for slaves during the Civil War.
No matter where you choose to celebrate Watch Night in the Gullah Geechee Corridor, you can expect a vibrant and meaningful experience that honors the rich history and culture of this unique community
Freedom’s Eve: Gullah Watch Night Programs to Attend
|This New Year’s Eve, join us for an annual daytime Watch Night and Emancipation Day Celebration to bring in the new year reflecting on the importance of Freedom’s Eve, as a community. On December 31, 1862, Gullah Geechee people gathered together to await the new year that would signal the end of slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation going into effect on New Year’s Day!
The community is invited to participate in one of our three Freedom’s Eve celebrations happening across the Gullah Geechee Corridor on December 31, 2023 in Wilmington, NC, Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL at 12:00 noon.
This celebration will be filled with rich Gullah Geechee history and cultural performances showcased by culture keepers from across the corridor.
|Wilmington, North Carolina
|Warner Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, 620 Nixon StreetHost Pastor – Rev. Dr. Clifford Barnett, Sr.
This celebration will be hosted by Host Pastor and Wilmington Mayor Pro-tem,
Rev. Dr. Clifford Barnett, Sr., with performances by the African American Dance Ensemble of Durham, NC, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters of Darien, GA,
Psalmist Kristen Jamison of Orangeburg, SC, Storyteller Dontavius Williams of Edgemoor, SC, with a special presentation by Tyanna West, Coordinator for the
North Carolina Civil Rights Trail!
Presented in collaboration with the International African American Museum, Warner Temple A.M.E. Zion, and the Upperman African American Cultural Center.
|Charleston, South Carolina
|Historic Morris Brown A.M.E. Church, 13 Morris StreetHost Pastor – Rev. Dr. James Keeton, Jr.
This celebration will be hosted by Radio Personality Lori “LJ” Johnson with performances by the acclaimed Magnolia Singers of Charleston, SC, Deninufay African Dance and Drum of Charleston, SC, Storyteller Jackie Mickel of Charleston, SC, with a special presentation by the Moving Star Hall Praise House descendants!
Presented in collaboration with the International African American Museum, Emancipation Proclamation Association, Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, and the Charleston District of the 7th Episcopal District of the