Walter Perry initiated and organized Emancipation Day celebrations in Windsor, Ontario, beginning around 1932. Often referred to as “Mr. Emancipation,” Mr. Perry’s Emancipation Day celebration was also called “The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth” (Emancipation Celebrations, 2014). Mr. Perry passed away in 1967.
Commemorating the enactment of the Abolition of Slavery Act (becoming law on August
1st, 1834), Mr. Perry’s Emancipation Day celebration was held annually and lasted for several days. It incorporated various activities, including contests, talent shows, and concerts. The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth also drew many well-known figures to its celebrations, including Adam Clayton Powell Jr, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Martin Luther King Jr. Many musical guests were also in attendance, including the likes of the Supremes, the Temptations, and Diana Ross. During this time, the celebrations attracted as many as 30,000 guests. The Detroit Riots led to the cancellation of the celebration in 1967. After his passing in 1967, the Emancipation Day celebrations were run by Edmund (Ted) Powell.
A documentary film entitled Mister Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story was released in 2020. Mr. Perry’s image is also featured in one of the City of Windsor Murals known as “Reaching Out,” which is located at 307 Wyandotte St. East.
‘A huge part of our local history’: A look back at Emancipation Day in Windsor. (Aug 2, 2019). CBC News.
Emancipation Celebrations. (November 25, 2014). Amherstburg Freedom Museum.
Emancipation Day. Windsor Mosaic – African Canadian Community.
Mister Emancipation. August 1, 2020 (page A5). (Aug 1, 2020). The Windsor Star (2011 – Recent).
Murals Located in City of Windsor. Windsor Mosaic – African Canadian Community.
Timeline. Windsor Mosaic – African Canadian Community.