[Vid] 160 Tolls, New Tribute for the Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Day Bell Ringing 2023. Image Kate Michael

New Year’s Day 2023 marked the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Lincoln to take effect on January 1, 1863, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

To commemorate the occasion, the National Bell Festival led a bell-ringing tribute from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. that included Frederick Douglass IV reading of a portion of the Emancipation Proclamation text, 160 distinct tolls of a bell cast in bronze by the Fulton Bell Foundry of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1863 – the same year as the Emancipation Proclamation – and a special rendition of Amazing Grace as sung by Dr. BJ Douglass.

The National Bell Festival also used the occasion to announce the construction of a new 65-bell tower and community amphitheater planned for Southwest Washington, D.C. that will honor the legacy of American abolitionists.

Dr. Bruce Purnell, Frederick Douglass IV, and Dr. BJ Douglass greet at the 160th Anniversary Emancipation Day bell ringing at the Lincoln Memorial.

Called the Emancipation Bells, the structure will be located adjacent to the new Bridge District in Ward 8, where the largest bell will be tuned to F for “freedom”; each of the twelve peal bells will be inscribed with the name of a prominent abolitionist, antislavery activist, or ally; and a carillon of 52 bells occupying the east belfry will also honor Black abolitionists including an inscription of the poem “Songs for the People” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.