Jackson Park Bandshell

For many years, Windsor citizens, some of whose ancestors had arrived from the U.S. on the Underground Railroad, celebrated Emancipation Day, which marks the day, August 1, 1834, on which slavery was abolished in the British Empire. In 1932, the Black community decided that they wanted to do something bigger and what became the “Greatest Freedom Show on Earth” was born.
At their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, the city’s Emancipation Day festivities stretched over several days and drew thousands of people from across North America to the city’s Jackson Park venue. Motown stars, like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations, crossed the Detroit River to perform at the park.

* * *

Exterior causes, like the death of long-time organizer Walter Perry, resistance from the City of Windsor who wanted to create their own festival (Freedom Festival) to replace the emancipation celebrations, and the Detroit uprising in 1967 all contributed to the decline of the large-scale emancipation celebrations in Windsor. Despite the decline in the larger celebrations, Emancipation Day continues to be celebrated not only in Essex County but all over the country.
Watch this trailer for Mr Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story.