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Visitation Remembers: Emancipation Day 2019

On April 16, 1862, 12 men, women, and children who had been enslaved by the Sisters of the Visitation were emancipated when President Abraham Lincoln and representatives in Congress liberated over 3,100 people enslaved in the District of Columbia. On the anniversary of that day, the Visitation community came together to remember those 12 individuals and pray the Stations of the Cross, reflecting on the Lenten message of remembrance.

Olivia Wills Kane '85, Director of the St. Jane de Chantal Salesian Center, offered, "We remember the names of these 12 people. We remember their sacrifices. We remember their dignity that was denied through enslavement. We remember the civic freedom that was restored through emancipation. We remember their new life."

Students read aloud the stations, with each of the first eleven followed by a brief biography of a man, woman, or child who was emancipated. The biographies are brief, because we know very little of the details of their lives. As Olivia noted, "We do know that Susan and Ignatius Tilghman had eight children and stayed married for 55 years during and after their enslavement; we remember details of faith, for we know that the Tilghmans baptized some of their children at Holy Trinity Church; we remember details of courage, for we know that Ignatius Tilghman challenged the Sisters by filing a lawsuit to recover the money he had paid to buy his and his family’s freedom; we remember details of hope, for we know that after emancipation Benjamin Mahoney signed on to fight on the union side of the Civil War, perhaps hopeful that his fighting could help bring an end to slavery."

After each station, the community prayed together: “We remember because we can’t afford to forget. By the power of the Cross of Christ help us to change the world.”

The biographies were recovered as part of Visitation's History of Enslaved People Project, and were included in a report released last year and available online

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