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Nicodemus celebrates emancipation





NICODEMUS -- Even as people continued to straggle in to the Nicodemus Township Hall, Troy Strahan strode through the throng to find his way to the front.

He was determined to meet Lawrence Jones, who was sitting on the front row.

Wearing a top hat on his already tall 6-feet, 6-inch frame, Strahan presented an imposing figure.

But before he took the podium as Abraham Lincoln, to talk about family and read the Emancipation Proclamation, Strahan wanted to meet Jones, alive for two-thirds of the 150 years since slaves were freed.

Jones and Strahan -- as Lincoln and as an individual interested in history -- spoke of the day's events, the 135th Nicodemus Emancipation Celebration.

The Township Hall was filled to overflowing. People lined the sides and the back of the hall, as dozens of people sat outside.

After talking with Jones, Strahan returned to the rear of the building, only to walk forward again, removing his hat and setting it on the stage behind him.

He was greeted frequently with applause as he talked of how slavery -- and its ending by a man he admires and portrays -- changed the nation.

While he said he's usually historically accurate, his words before reading the proclamation ending slavery weren't, Strahan said afterward.

But he thinks the celebration, swelling the town of just 14 to several hundred, demanded it.

It was his first time visiting Nicodemus.

His presentation soon gave way to descendants of the first settlers of Nicodemus, many dressed in costumes of the period, re-enacting the arrival of the freed slaves 136 years ago.

Some of them were among the latest stragglers to enter, but it was all in good fun as they teased one another.

But as Regina Thomas, Nashville, Tenn., started singing "Nicodemus," the nearly 500 people inside came to life.

So, too, did the descendants.

It was the third re-enactment of the trip of more than 300 freed slaves leaving Sadieville, Ky., for Ellis and then eventually on into Nicodemus in Graham County.

Nearly a year ago, many residents from Nicodemus traveled to Sadieville to start the re-enactment, that of first boarding a train bound for the Promised Land.

In October, they re-enacted getting off the train in Ellis.