Jubilee History:The concept of Jubilee is deeply rooted in the Judeo/Christian tradition, emanating from the 5th Century B.C. The words, “Jubilee Year” literally mean “Year of the Rams”. The Ram’s Horn signifies great sanctity and supernatural effect.
Jubilee Year, in ancient times, was the final cycle of fifty years, consisting of seven Sabbatical Year periods, or forty-nine years, plus the fiftieth year. The Jubilee Year served two functions:
1. The automatic release or emancipating of a Jew, who for one reason or another had at some moment within the preceding forty-nine years become enslaved to a fellow Jew; and
2. The automatic release or return to the original owner of his family property, whether fields or houses in unwalled—i.e., country-towns which had been sold to a fellow Jew during the course of a similar forty-nine year period.
There is powerful symbolism in the celebration of Jubilee Day by Branches of the Association. One of them is the Passover Feast. In the biblical history of Israel, the miraculous escape of the Hebrew Children from the bondage of slavery under the Egyptian Pharaoh finds strong parallels in the “escape” from slavery of Blacks in America. After a series of awful plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and “lets the children of Israel go” free. He is finally convinced when the Death Angel “passes-over” Egypt, sparing only those houses with the blood of the lamb painted on the lentel of the door. Those houses not painted with blood, saw their first-born struck dead.
The African slave identified strongly with this biblical account found in Exodus. They too looked forward to the day when the “death-angel” would pass-over the South and set him free. The “death-angel” became the Great Civil War that eventually threw off the yoke of bondage. It is significant, therefore, that Black Americans come together once a year to celebrate their freedom from slavery. Jubilee Day is a time when the history of our suffering as slaves is remembered; the experience of segregation is recounted; and, the strategies for facing equality and justice for the future are reshaped. We must never forget, forfeit, or falsify our past.