Mr. Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story
Director(s): Preston Chase
Writer(s): Preston Chase
Producer(s): The Walter Perry Freedom Foundation
Mr. Emancipation is the story of Walter L Perry’s determination to put on a celebration that would transcend divisions of race and class. He staged an Emancipation Day festival that was where everyone wanted to be. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesse Owens all headed there because, as civil rights activist Dick Gregory said “The largest Juneteenth celebration was not in America, it was in Windsor, Canada.”
A celebration of ending slavery sounds grim.
What Walter Perry organized was the exact opposite of grim. For him the Emancipation Weekend was a celebration of life and escape from reality.
In the mid-twentieth century, Windsor and Detroit were far from models of harmonious integration. There was blatant discrimination and segregated communities on both sides of the border. But somehow, in the midst of racial tension and fear, all differences were put aside once a year, and black culture was celebrated by everyone.
Imagine a miles-long parade. The smell of soul food. Whirling carnival rides. There was live music, talent shows and even the Miss Sepia beauty pageant (the first international beauty pageant for Black women).
At its peak the event doubled the City of Windsor’s population of 100,000.
From 1936 until 1967, that’s how Walter Perry celebrated freedom. Perry and his celebration got caught up in the overheated racial politics of the day, sabotage and race riots of 1967 in Detroit. His event never recovered that year and shortly after Walter Perry died‚Ä¶. but the spirit of Mister. Emanciaption still lives on.