Shannon, Hurt celebrate 13th Amendment

Published 12:29 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Rev. Matthew Shannon, of Beulah AME Church in Farmville, recently joined President Barack Obama and congressional leaders commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The event was held in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt’s Office.

Shannon joined Hurt in celebration of the amendment, which was ratified in 1865, abolishing slavery in the United States.

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“I was honored that Rev. Shannon could join me in Washington for the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment commemoration,” Hurt said. “The 13th Amendment is only 43 words, but it enshrined in law the principles upon which our nation was founded — indeed, the principles which make our nation great.”

Hurt said the amendment marked an “important turning point in our nation’s history when we recognized that we had not been living up to these principles and we renewed our commitment to them.”

Obama spoke to the visitors, which included House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Shannon, pastor of Beulah AME since May 2012, said while in Washington he was able to network and meet new people “who were integral to the civil rights movement. One example was [U.S. Rep.] John Lewis,” he said.

Shannon said the event featured several readings from U.S. senators and House members on the history of the amendment’s ratification throughout the United States.

“The 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment means that freedom is ongoing for everyone,” he said. “However, we must continue the work to protect this freedom. In addition, we have to continue to educate young people because they are standing on the shoulders of people who fought for their freedom.”

“Today, the issue of chattel slavery seems so simple, so obvious,” Obama said. “It is wrong in every sense. Stealing men, women, and children from their homelands. Tearing husband from wife, parent from child; stripped and sold to the highest bidder; shackled in chains and bloodied with the whip. It’s antithetical not only to our conception of human rights and dignity. But to our conception of ourselves — a people founded on the premise that all are created equal.”

Shannon said during the event, he heard “Oh Freedom” and “Life Every Voice and Sing” performed by Dr. Louise Toppin, a faculty member at UNC Chapel Hill.

“These songs reminded me that my ancestors were determined to be free, whether in this life or in the next life. The event reminded me of the contributions of people like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Their fight for freedom still serves as an inspiration to me when life gets difficult,” he said.