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Photographs from "The Star of Ethiopia," a pageant created for the 1913 Emancipation Celebration. The Crisis, December, 1915

Debates over how to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation reflected deep divisions in the black community. Should African history be part of the African American collective memory, or did that further undermine the progress blacks had made since the end of the civil war? Could searing memories of slavery be made public or did that undermine the potential for current accomplishment?

Du Bois' extraordinary pageant, "The Star of Ethiopia", reached for both authenticity and pride by placing the cruelty of slavery in a larger sweep of American history, reaching back to a golden age in Africa. The pageant, which was only produced four times (including at the 1913 Jubilee celebration in New York, and in 1915 in Washington D.C.), involved hundreds of performers and virtually all the arts, including dramatizations, music, photographs, reproductions of Egyptian obelisks and wall paintings and much more.

For more on this complicated story see Resources