: Uncle Nace's Day ~ Commemorating Maryland Emancipation Day Since 1867

By Ann E. Dorbin

Uncle Nace's Day

Celebrating Maryland Emancipation Day

1867 – 2009 ~ The longest continuously running celebration on the Eastern Shore

Church Service ~ Gravesite Visit ~ Gospel Singing ~ Home Cooked Food
Motorcycle and Car Show ~ Parade

Nathaniel 'Uncle Nace' Hopkins, wife Caroline, and 2 of their children

Nathaniel Hopkins (pictured here with his wife Caroline and 2 of their 6 children) was born a slave in Trappe around 1831. He was affectionately known throughout Talbot County as "Uncle Nace." After serving the Union army in the Civil War, Hopkins returned to Talbot County to work for the betterment of the newly-free black population in the southern area of the county, including the establishment and construction of Trappe’s first black school in 1878. In 1867, he founded Emancipation Day in Talbot County, to celebrate Maryland's emancipation of its slaves, which occurred on November 1, 1864 with the adoption of the new state constitution. This momentous event marked Maryland as the first slave state to voluntarily free its slaves by popular vote (Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 had only freed slaves in states of rebellion, of which Maryland was not one).

Trappe's Emancipation Day festivities included church services, speakers, food, music, and a parade. Every year, Hopkins himself led the parade, dressed in his full Union army uniform, with his epaulets adorning his shoulders, a colorful sash around his waist, and his gleaming sword in hand. Upon his death in 1900, the citizens of Trappe decided to continue the tradition of the Emancipation Day festivities. "Uncle Nace" and his contributions to the post-emancipation African-American community are remembered to this day every October on what is now known as "Nace Hopkins Day."

Nathaniel 'Uncle Nace' Hopkins

Photos by Ann Dorbin, Paragon Light Inc.

Nace's Day Parade

For more information about Nace's Day activities, please contact Scotts United Methodist Church at 410-476-3980 or via email at sumc@goeaston.net.