This week marks the anniversary of an important milestone in American history. On January 1st, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom for all people held as slaves in rebel states.
To celebrate the 151st anniversary of that document, Mount Zion Baptist Church in East Knoxville held a special "Emancipation Day" service Wednesday.
"I try to envision myself in that year, 1863," said Reverend William Terry Ladd, who returned to Knoxville from his Chattanooga ministry for Wednesday's service.
"What it must have meant to our ancestors and our forefathers to have been waiting for something for so long-- to finally be emancipated from slavery."
Ladd's sermon focused on the successes achieved since the Emancipation Proclamation, but also the work yet to be done.
"Even though physical slavery has ended, I think economic slavery is the next point of where we are today," he explained. "I think there are policies and procedures in our government that hinder people from being free, economically."
Ladd pointed to expanding healthcare and higher minimum wage as two areas he'd like to see improvements.
Other community and church leaders contributed to the service, with representatives from the legislature, Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and the Knoxville Chapter of the NAACP. Austin East High School student Alicia Lewis delivered a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The document itself did not end slavery. Instead, it promised freedom would come with a Union victory. The proclamation also enabled black soldiers to fight alongside Union troops in the Civil War.
The National Archives page includes pictures of the original Emancipation Proclamation document, and the full text.
Ladd said he hopes people left the service with some inspiration.
"The struggle is not over," he said.
"God is a God of justice, and we must continue to fight for that justice both locally and globally."