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8th of August Introduction | Kentucky Life | KET

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Published on Feb 4, 2014

American independence is celebrated on the 4th of July, but many African-American communities in Western Kentucky also commemorate another day of freedom. The 8th of August is both an Emancipation celebration and a homecoming, and it's been a tradition since the 1860s.

The origins of the 8th of August celebration are lost to time. Most newspapers didn't cover African-American events in much detail, and oral histories vary from town to town. Some say the holiday began in Tennessee when Andrew Johnson, military governor of Union-controlled Tennessee and future president, freed his slaves on Aug. 8, 1863. Others claim that news of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived in faraway communities on Aug. 8. In Paducah, the African American 8th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery is credited with bringing back the news of Emancipation on that date.

The 8th of August quickly became a homecoming event in many Western Kentucky counties, whose populations were roughly 40 percent African-American in the years after the Civil War. Thousands would flood trains and steamboats to return home to celebrate the 8th with family who never left the area.

The 8th of August is still celebrated today in towns where the older generation works to instill the tradition in the younger generation. In this edition of Kentucky Life, we learn about this history from Nancy Dawson of Russellville, historian and artistic director of Music is Spirit; Russellville community historian Michael Morrow; Paducah community historian Corine Harber; retired Command Sgt. Maj. Lewis Hatcher of Clarksville, Tennessee; and educator Helen Anderson Long, also of Clarksville.


For more information and to view the entire program, visit
http://www.ket.org/kentuckylife/1900s...


Learn more about KET's progam Kentucky Life at http://www.ket.org/kentuckylife/
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