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150 Years Ago in Rockland: Justice, and Thanksgiving

Justice to the Blacks the Interest of the Nationby Brian Jennings

150 years ago this week, Rockland County was struggling with what it meant to be an American, reflecting on the meaning of the Civil War.

On August 1, 1863, the editor of the Rockland County Journal wrote that the great question the nation had to address was not about preserving the Union but how would we treat African Americans after the war and whether they would have the same free and equal justice that each of us demands for himself.   He recognized that simply ending slavery would not suffice, but something more was required.   Furthermore, he stated it was “the duty of every man who loves his country, who believes in the unalienable rights of man and who would serve God, to help him secure it.”


President’s Proclamation, Rockland County Journal, August 1 1863

Most accounts of the origins of our national holiday attribute it to a long tradition of Thanksgiving feasts dating back to the Pilgrims, but was formalized by President Abraham Lincoln in October 1863.   We see in a small notice of August’s first edition of the Rockland County Journal that President Lincoln also made a Proclamation calling for a day of Thanksgiving on August 6, 1863.  

You can read more issues and other historic newspapers from the Hudson Valley and Rockland County online at

Brian Jennings is the local history librarian and librarian supervisor at the Nyack Library. This article is part of a series extracted from scanned copies of the 1850-1884 Rockland County Journal which include The Civil War and the period in which realist painter Edward Hopper lived in Nyack. They provide us with a snapshot into what life was like in Nyack and Rockland in the late 19th century.

See also: 150 Years Ago In Rockland series on NyackNewsAndViews

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