Simultaneously Saturday afternoon, all the church bells in Southampton Village rang to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln's executive order during the Civil War to free the slaves in Confederate territory.
On the corner of Main Street and Jobs Lane, in front of the First Presbyterian Church, many residents gathered with handbells to participate in the celebration. The group then shuffled into the church for a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by local clergy, a performance by the church bell choir, and a brief Watch Night service performed by African American Museum of the East End director Brenda Simmons and Dwayne Kerr, the flutist for Erykah Badu. According to the Southampton Historical Museum, Watch Night service in the African-American community began with slaves gathering in churches on New Year's Eve in 1862 to await news of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.
A roundtable discussion led by Carol T. Spencer, the founder of Diaspora Books, followed across the street at the Southampton Historical Museum's Rogers Mansion. A panel of historians and authors discussed the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation and how it affected the nation and its citizens.
Then Simmons led an evening of jazz and poetry at the Rogers Mansion.