In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. — I Thessalonians 5:18
The word “thanks” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as a good feeling that you have towards someone who has helped you, given something to you, etc., something done or said to express thanks. Dating back 154 years, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, we as a people have utilized the Thanksgiving holiday here America as a time to be grateful for the many good things He has done for us.
Though meals only consisted of a fish caught by some of the slave fathers to serve up for what was considered a fancy Thanksgiving meal, along with some corn bread and vegetables, slaves learned what this holiday meant here in America. An example of a sermon from African Methodist Episcopalian cleric, Rev. Benjamin Arnett stirred a predominantly Black congregation on Nov. 30, 1876, with his biblically inspired words. He said: “…We call on all American citizens to love their country, and look not on the sins of the past, but arming ourselves for the conflict of the future, girding ourselves in the habiliments of righteousness, march forth with the courage of a Numidian lion and with the confidence of a Roman gladiator, and meet the demands of the age, and satisfy the duties of the hour…”
“Then let the grand Centennial Thanksgiving song be heard and sung in every house of God; and in every home may thanksgiving sounds be heard, for our race has been emancipated, enfranchised and are now educating, and have the gospel preached to them,” he said.
In 1863, Lincoln signed the proclamation of a national Thanksgiving Day, unifying the various regional practices that had already been taking place throughout the nation.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
Some slaves saw the holidays as an opportunity to escape. They took advantage of relaxed work schedules and the holiday travels of slaveholders, who were too far away to stop them. While some slaveholders treated the holiday as any other workday, there have been numerous recordings of a variety of holiday traditions, including the suspension of work for celebration and family visits, since many slaves had spouses, children and family members who were owned by different masters and lived on other properties. Slaves often requested passes to travel and visit family during this time. Some slaves used the passes to explain their presence on the road and delay the discovery of their escape, though their masters’ expectation was they would soon return from their “family visit.”
This year, as you celebrate with your loved ones for a special Thanksgiving holiday, let this old-fashioned testimony be your testimony, which goes something like this: Thank the Lord for waking me up this morning, closed in my right mind. Thank you Lord for life, health and strength, for food and shelter. Lord, we thank you that our bed didn’t become our cooling board, but you allowed us to see yet, another day! That testimony has been said many times throughout the South, as our reminder that we are not our own, we are bought with a price, and it reminds us that nothing we have done to keep us here each day, but it is the mercies of the Heavenly Father.
1st Thessalonians reminds us to give thanks in everything we do, whether that thing is good or bad. Remember when those bad things happen, the Father could be strengthening you for the race you are about to run. Happy Thanksgiving!
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Visit her website, www.lyndiagrantshow.com, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 240-602-6291. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.