Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, July 31, 1994, pg. 19

There is a special new addendum to this article, many of the names of the people in the picture have been identified.

August was a special month for our local African-American population in the early 20th century, as it meant the observance of Emancipation Day. Held on August 1 of each year, Emancipation Day was a public observance by blacks recognizing being declared freed from slavery. It was a time of parades, barbecues, public meetings and speeches, baseball games, and reunions in order to celebrate their black heritage.

Locally, Emancipation Day was held at the Booker T. Washington Community House on N. Albion St., near the Albion Malleable Iron Company where many blacks worked. The Booker T. Washington Association had been formed in the early 1920s as a recreational group. The group raised money to purchase a community house and a ball field across from the Albion Malleable Iron Company, but fell short at the time of the stock market crash in late 1929 and was unable to raise the remaining funds.

On August 1, 1927, Albion hosted the Emancipation Day celebration for Southern Michigan, in which over 3,200 blacks from across the state attended. Persons came from places such as Jackson, Battle Creek, and Ypsilanti. Chairman of the event was Estis Howard. The festivities began in the morning with a massive parade on West Cass, N. Albion Sts., and Austin Avenue. Each float contained an individual who had gained some prominence as a statesman or soldier. Parade goers then trekked to the Association grounds for a barbecue lunch.

The afternoon began with a program of speeches, with P. R. James as master of ceremonies. Rev. David Ampey (1866-1937) of the local A. M. E. Church, gave the opening prayer. Albion Mayor Frank W. Culver then welcomed the guests on behalf of the citizens of Albion. The principal speaker was Rev. S. F. Harris of Benton Harbor, who expounded on the life and works of Abraham Lincoln and urged the younger generation to follow his example as one of America’s leading statesmen in its history.

Following the speeches, attendees were treated to a boxing match between local youths, Charles Simmons, and Arthur Wright, with Simmons winning the match by a small margin. There followed a baseball game between the Albion All-Stars, sponsored by the Albion Service Garage and the Battle Creek Monarchs. Albion won 6 to 5, with the help of Wingate and Pearson, who each got three hits in four times at bat, the former collecting two triples.

An Emancipation Day Ball was held in the evening, above the Eckert Market, 210 S. Superior St., present-day location about Wilking Office Supply. Music was provided by the Bohm’s orchestra, Albion’s city band at the time.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a special photograph, showing the crowd gathered at the August 1, 1927 Emancipation Day in Albion, at the Booker T. Washington Park on N. Albion St. This is one of those “l-o-n-g” photographs, so we have chopped it up into four portions. There are numerous Albion persons in this photograph, including Albion Mayor Frank Culver. One question: In the first photograph, a young man on the far left is holding a sign that says “85% True to our Trust.” Can anyone elaborate on the significance and meaning of that slogan?”

Emancipation Day 1927 photograph

Here is a closer view of the photograph in segments, click on the picture to see a larger view:

To see the Key to the known names of the people shown in this panoramic photograph, click here.


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