The Creation of the DayAndrew Johnson's former slave, Sam, was instrumental in creating the first August 8th celebrations. From this newspaper record of the first known August 8th event, Andrew Johnson attended the celebration.
The Knoxville Chronicle of August 9, 1871 recorded an August 8th anniversary celebration in Greeneville:
"A procession was formed in the following order: 1st. Officer of the day, Sam Johnson, late a slave of President Johnson.
2nd. Greeneville Brass Band, in four horse wagon, horses suitably bedecked with flags, &c.
3rd. Citizens in wagons, buggies, carriages, on horseback, and on foot.
Afterwards the colored Sabbath School of the city, children also formed in procession, carrying the American flag in front.
They all marched out from town some distance when they were addressed by ex-President Johnson, Col. Bob Crawford, and others.
President Johnson went out about 11 o'clock in a two-horse buggy, in company with several other gentlemen.
The procession commenced moving at 9 o'clock down Irish street to Maine, and on to Tusculum College, near which the speaking and picnic exercises were held."
Johnson's Legacy Continues
August 8th has continued to be recognized as a holiday in the African-American community in Tennessee and surrounding states, and in 2007, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen signed legislation acknowledging August 8th as "Emancipation Day" in the state... "… to honor and recognize the celebration of the action of Andrew Johnson, seventeenth president of the United States and then military governor of Tennessee, in freeing his personal slaves on August 8, 1863, and the significance of emancipation in the history of Tennessee."