Thursday, January 1, 1863.
To day has bin a memorable day and i thank god i have bin sperd to see it the day was religously observed all the churches were open we had quite a jubilee in the evenin i went to Joness to a Party had a very pleasant time
The Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. Philadelphia’s black community celebrated Emancipation by crowding into the city’s black churches minutes before the New Year; at midnight, Philadelphians of color cheered the president’s proclamation. Murray Dubin and Dan Biddle, Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010, 277-278. The celebrations were also noted in an article in The Christian Recorder, “Meetings and Demonstrations.” January 10, 1863.
Emilie frequently mentions the weather throughout her diary. In many cases, rain and snow prevented her daily travels, which is understandable given her primary mode of transportation was probably walking. In particular, she regularly mentions the weather on Sundays, in regard to whether or not she could attend church. Later entries that note severe weather that greatly affected the city of Philadelphia or were noteworthy in city newspapers as well are annotated hereafter.
Nellie or Nel appears often in the diary. Although we were not able to determine who she was, we offer our best guess on February 20, 1863.
According to the 1860 census, Emilie (Emily) Davis was 21 years old and living in her brother Elijah Davis’s home. (Elijah was 40 years old in 1860; he often appears in the diary as “EJ.”) Emilie’s occupation is listed as “servant,” suggesting that her frequent references to sewing in the diary were related to her work as a domestic servant. Like Emilie’s job as a servant, Elijah Davis’s occupation as a “waiter” is consistent with the limited work prospects available to women and men of color in the antebellum North.
Also resident in the home was Elijah’s wife Sarah Davis (28 years old in 1863) and the couple’s son, Elwood (4 years old), Elizabeth Davis (19 years old), and Thomas Davis (15 years old). What Emilie and EJ’s relationship is to the latter two is unclear, but they may be her younger siblings.
By the start of her 1863 diary, Emilie appears to be living on her own, as she refers to going home, apparently in reference to EJ’s and Sarah’s. Because Emilie Davis could not be found in the 1870 census, we were not able to determine her exact place of residence. At times, she lives with employers on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
We believe that Emilie Davis’ father is Isaac Davis, listed as 60 years old in the 1860 census (63 years old in 1863), living with Ann (37 years old), Levi (44 years old), and Levi, Jr. (14 years old) Frever — Isaac’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson – in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Isaac Davis was in Philadelphia in January 1863.