history of emancipation day

london, ontario

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which ended slavery in the British Empire, received Royal Assent on Aug. 28, 1833, and took effect on Aug. 1, 1834. The Act freed nearly one-million slaves in Canada, as well as in the Caribbean and South Africa.

In 2008, the Province of Ontario designated August 1 as Emancipation Day, and many municipalities in the province recognize this date with a celebration.  However, the date usually falls around the August long weekend, which makes it very difficult for many people to attend.  For this reason, over the past few years London's Emancipation Day Celebration has been moved to later in the month of September.


In the United States, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery and signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, stating "All enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the union shall be then henceforward and Forever Free!"

London, Ontario held its first Emancipation Day Celebration in 1949 in Springbank Park, organized by Christine and Frank Howson.  Following the passing of Christine in 1967, organizing of the event passed to her daughter Evelyn Johnson.  Evelyn continued hosting the event until her passing in 1982, when the torch was passed to William and Diane Turner.  They continued organizing the event until 1986, at which time the event went on hiatus until their daughter Justine Turner took over the reins of organizing in 2013.  In 2013, Justine moved the event to its new home at The Meeting Tree, deep in the forest of Westminster Ponds.

below:  newspaper article from August of 1949

newspaper article.jpg