GREENEVILLE — Andrew Johnson National Historic Park is remembering Freedom Day with a special exhibit and a Ranger program. The public is invited to attend both programs on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. in the park Visitor Center, 101 North College St.
The program is in honor of the observance of Freedom Day, the anniversary of Andrew Johnson’s emancipation of his personal slaves while serving as military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War. The tradition of memorializing this date was begun by Sam Johnson, one of Johnson’s former slaves. From his recollection, that on Aug. 8, 1863, Johnson freed his slaves.
The Ranger program will be presented in two parts in the theatre of the park Visitor Center and will last approximately 45 minutes. Park Guide Daniel Luther will guide visitors through a timeline of American slavery and, in the second part of the presentation, examine the circumstances that led Andrew Johnson to move forcefully to embrace emancipation in August of 1863. The program is offered free to the public.
From August through October 2012, the park will feature a special exhibit containing copied images from William Johnson’s scrapbook. William was the youngest of Andrew Johnson’s slaves.
Emancipated by Johnson along with his family on Aug. 8, 1863, William Johnson was a well- known cook and pastry chef in Knoxville. He came to national attention in 1937 when his visit to President Franklin Roosevelt was a featured human interest story carried in newspapers across the country. William Johnson first gained experience in commercial baking working with his mother, Dolly, in Andrew Johnson’s Tailor Shop, only yards from the exhibit honoring this former slave.
“We are very fortunate to be able to glimpse into this amazing man’s life, which spanned slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow,” said Park Superintendent Lizzie Watts. “We are also grateful to Tusculum College for sharing this information with us for our event.”
For further information, call Jim Small at 639-3711.