If asked, when would you say “freedom” was granted to those whose ancestors were brought to the colonies as enslaved people? Would you respond January 1, 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect? Ah, but those states that had seceded from the Union did not recognize the Emancipation Proclamation and were engaged in ongoing and brutal battle to have their own government apart from the United States.

We just celebrated “Juneteenth” – June 19, 1865, when, at last, the news of Confederate surrender and emancipation reached Texas. The announcement was accompanied by many Union troops, among them units of black soldiers wearing Union uniforms. What about emancipation in border states – border states like Tennessee?

During the early days of the Civil War, there were a number of states located between the Union and the newly declared Confederacy. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri remained border states throughout the Civil War. Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virgina were originally considered border states and the great divisions of sentiment in those states, as well as the bloody battles fought in those states created hostilities that remain among their peoples to this day.

However, pro-Union eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee considered themselves part of the Union…and themselves, a border people. So, for some time, they carried an understanding that the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to them. In fact, in 1862, President Lincoln appointed then Tennessee Senator, Andrew Johnson of Greeneville, Tennessee, as the Military Governor of Tennessee.

On August 8, 1863, Johnson freed the slaves he held in Tennessee and in 1871, Emancipation Day in Tennessee was celebrated for the first time. To this day, a number of East Tennessee counties celebrate August 8th as Emancipation Day. You can read about our unique Emancipation Day at the Tennessee Historical Association website

In 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly designated August 8 or “Emancipation Day” as a day of special observance. August 8 has been celebrated in Tennessee as “Emancipation Day” or “8 of 8” since 1871. That very first celebration was organized in Greenville, Tennessee by Sam Johnson. Sam Johnson was free that day in 1871, but it had not always been so. Former President of the United States, Andrew Johnson was the guest speaker. At one time, Sam belonged to Andrew Johnson. Sam Johnson was forty-eight years old in 1871. He had lived as a free man for only eight years. Sam was the first enslaved person that Andrew Johnson purchased. On November 29, 1842, the day he was purchased, Sam was 13 years old. Several weeks later, on January 3, 1843, Andrew Johnson purchased Sam’s half-sister, Dolly, who was 19 years old at the time.

Executive Director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center hosts this reflection on Emancipation Day – 8th of August. The video is about 30 minutes. It features people whose families passed along the stories of emancipation as it happened in Tennessee.

The United States lost two Civil Rights icons on the same day, yesterday, July 17, 2020. Both men died within hours of the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Read something of their stories at:

May angels lead him into Paradise; may martyrs receive him into Heavenly Jerusalem; may choirs of angels sing him into the Eternal Habitations and may he hear the voice of the Holy One say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And may we be so moved by his example that we seek and stir up “good trouble!” Thank you, Congressman John Lewis!

2024 Remarkable Woman Finalist

Link to WATE video

 Alexander to be honored at Power of Sport Gala

Link to CT article.

Dr. Alpha Alexander has been featured in a new book about prominent African Americans in Philadelphia.

Link to CT article.

After a life in athletics, Alpha Alexander still has love for the game.

Link to CT article.

Dr. Alpha Alexander is highlighted in this wonderful interview. She is one of the founders of Black Women in Sports Foundation and serves as a Board Member. The interview reminds us that our paths cross others’ paths who, in time, become influencers of culture and national icons. We just don’t know how much our lives and stories influence them in return. We have an extraordinary woman in our midst!

Link to “Profiles in Board Leadership: Dr. Alpha Alexander”

Knox Heritage and East Tennessee Historical Alliance are establishing a Morristown College Legacy Garden on the 52 acre site on which Morristown College was opened in 1881. The property is now owned by the City of Morristown and newly named as Heritage Park. The proposal was adopted by the City and a double-sided, historical sign (Phase 1), will be erected in a temporary location for the park opening on Nov 16th, 2019. 

Future plans include creating a circular garden area with plantings around the sign. A Time Capsule will be buried under the sign.

The total cost of the project is $20K. The money is to be raised through tax deductible donations of any amount beginning Friday, November 1, 2019 and running to March 1, 2020. Checks may written to Knox Heritage, with Morristown College Legacy Site on the memo line. Contributions may be mailed to Knox Heritage, P. O. Box 1242, Knoxville, TN 37901.

Side 1 of Legacy Sign proposed by Knox Heritage and its affiliate, East Tennessee Historical Alliance.
Side 2 of the Legacy Sign on which first stood a “Freedom School” for the formerly enslaved (1868-1880) In 1881, Morristown Seminary, as it was then known, was opened and headed by President, Dr. Judson S. Hill. The school gres through the period of Reconstruction, the turn of the century, WWI, the Depression, WWII and into the Civil Rights era. It closed in 1994 as an Historic Black College that had persevered through the integration of all schools in the United States. This side of the sign shows some material from the book by local author JoVita Wells.
The proposal of Knox Heritage and its regional affiliate, East Tennessee Historical Alliance is that the sign be located within a circular garden with plantings and landscaping, memorial benches memorial bricks as part of the feature. A Time Capsule will be buried under the sign. Total cost of the project is estimated to be $20K. The money is to be raised through tax deductible donations of any amount beginning Friday, November 1, 2019 and running to March 1, 2020. Checks may written to Knox Heritage, with Morristown College Legacy Site on the memo line. Contributions may be mailed to Knox Heritage, P. O. Box 1242, Knoxville, TN 37901.

Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity honors the life and the service of Rep. Elijah Cummings (1951-2019) who died this morning. He worked tirelessly to create unity in his community and in our nation, returning every night to his beloved Baltimore, the place he called home. He didn’t just work for his constituents, he lived among them. He served them and this country with distinction and leaves an irreplaceable hole in the heart and governance of our country.

Quote about Elijah Cummings from his wife
Quote about Elijah Cummings from his wife, the Maryland Democratic Chair.