Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science student Erika Wheeler will portray Anna Boulden at Eighth of May Emancipation Day presentations Tuesday at Sandfield Cemetery, at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. “We hope people from the area will come enjoy our performance while learning a little more Columbus history,” the Greenwood native said. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
May 5, 2012 4:38:21 PM
On Tuesday, May 8, a historically African-American cemetery in Columbus will become the setting for dramatic and musical lessons in local history.
Students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science will present the third Eighth of May Emancipation Day History Program in Sandfield Cemetery at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The cemetery is located at the corner of College Street and 25th St. S. The presentations are free and open to the public.
The student-directed MSMS Voices in Harmony Choir will perform, and dramatic vignettes will relate historic events and figures from the 19th through mid-20th century African-Amerian community in Columbus.
Figures portrayed will include Anna Boulden, wife of state representative Rev. Jesse F. Boulden, who played a role in founding Missionary Union Baptist Church, and Union Academy teacher Anna Gleed, whose father, state senator Robert Gleed, spoke at the first Eighth of May celebration in 1866.
Dr. E.J. Stringer will also be portrayed. The local dentist led the state NAACP and efforts to integrate local schools. Students will also give voice to Tony, an enslaved woman who became the catalyst for the Women's Property Act of the 1830s.
The Eighth of May Emancipation Celebration had its beginnings in spontaneous celebrations that accompanied the arrival -- on May 8, 1865 -- of federal troops in Columbus, effectively ending slavery in this area, stated MSMS history instructor Chuck Yarborough.
One year later, African-Americans in Columbus held their first Eighth of May Emancipation observance.
Choir members hope to share some of what they learned after discovering accounts of that event were recorded, in part, in the journal of Cyrus Green, a Quaker from Indiana who taught at the Freedman's Bureau school in Columbus in 1866.
"The program will provide information about our history that a lot of us don't know," said Treston Norphlet, an MSMS senior from Clarksdale and co-president of the choir. "Even though I'm not from Columbus, this is still part of my history."
At the first celebration, Green recorded that "today was a day long to be remembered by many of the African race here. It was their first celebration in commemoration of their freedom -- one year ago this morning the Federal troops arrived in this place and proclaimed the slaves free."
Preachers and laymen, black and white, spoke eloquently at the event. Green recorded that revelers dined at a table "covered not only with the whitest linen but an enigmatic profusion of cakes, meats, candies ... blended tastefully with flowers, leaves and every conceivable beauty culled from nature's great laboratory."
The Eighth of May Emancipation Day Celebration continued throughout Lowndes County and the surrounding area through the remainder of the 19th and most of the 20th century.
For more information about the presentations, contact MSMS at 662-329-7360.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.