According to Sherill Wilson, an urban anthropologist, many Afrikan Americans in New York were happy to celebrate Emancipation Day on the 5th as opposed to the 4th of July. "They were unhappy with the notion that their freedom was linked with freedom of the colonies from Great Britain, since, in fact, the African people continued to be enslaved after the American colonies received freedom from Great Britain," she said.
Wilson continued, stating that "many people do not realize how prevalent slavery was in our region. She said even as late as the 1820s, New York City was second in the country when it came to the business of slavery. "Second only to Charleston in the American colonies," said Wilson. "So we're talking about a huge number of enslaved people who played a role in building New York."
Emancipation Day has special meaning to Weeksville, part of what is now Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, which was one of the largest free black communities before the Civil War.