ON Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national holiday of Thanksgiving. That came just over a year after Lincoln made another more historic proclamation, one that directly concerned my family and their future: the Emancipation Proclamation, which had freed the enslaved in any territory “in rebellion.”
These two proclamations are visually conjoined in a stereograph made about the same time that is familiar to students of the American South. Taken by Henry P. Moore, it shows African-Americans at work on a plantation on Edisto Island, off South Carolina. They are captured in attitudes of deep concentration, posed with hoes in hands or seated around a large basket, preparing to plant. They are described as new freemen or escaped slaves — and the tubers that they are planting are alternately labeled sweet potatoes or yams.
Op-Ed Contributor - You Say Potato, I Say Yam - NYTimes.com