KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On August 8, 1863, a group of enslaved African Americans in Greeneville, Tennessee, became free from their enslaver, Andrew Johnson, who later became the seventeenth president of the United States.
August 8 is known as Emancipation Day in Tennessee. Since the first celebration in 1871, many people across the state have been celebrating the day with festivals, jubilees and parades.
Here in Knoxville, the Beck Center has been honoring the holiday for about eight years -- and they want people to use this day to reflect on this piece of history in Tennessee.
Others decided to honor the holiday, as well.
The Mabry-Hazen House is located in East Knoxville off Dandridge Avenue and was home to one of Knoxville's largest slaveholders, Joseph Mabry.
"And so you have enslaved people that lived and experienced their own lives within the home," said Patrick Hollis.
Hollis is the executive director and curator at the Mabry-Hazen House. It was built in 1858.
To commemorate Emancipation Day in Tennessee, Hollis guided hundreds of people on tours around the house.
The tour is called "And Then I Became Free." It tells the stories of the enslaved men of the Mabry family.
Hollis believes August 8 was the best day to hold the tour for the first time.
The Mabry-Hazen household has hundreds of years of history in the family. Each tour was about 75 minutes long and educated people on how the enslaved men of the Mabry family gained freedom.
"And we look at the four different methods by which men were able to earn their freedom," said Hollis. "One is through manumission, which was the legal granting of freedom by a slaver. One escapes. So three men took horses and made their escape towards freedom in 1862. One is through another means is through governmental legislation. So the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th amendment, we look at a man named Caesar. And then finally, my favorite story is one about Wily Mabry, a black man that purchased himself from Joseph Mabry in the spring of 1863."
Hollis says this is the first time they've done the tour, and it got a good response.
"But this is a tour we'll start offering more regularly as a special specially reserved tour," he said.
The "And Then I Became Free' tour will return in September and October.