Before the Emancipation Proclamation was even signed, before the Civil War was close to being over, before there was any such thing as former slaves governing themselves, there was Mitchelville. A group of escaped slaves created this town, on a former plantation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with the help of Union General Ormsby Mitchell.
This was not merely an encampment, but a true town, with simply designed streets, wooden homes, and a church. Not only was there a sense of community within this simple infrastructure, but there was also opportunity – the opportunity for these individuals to experience freedom and govern themselves.
Therefore these citizens held elections, developed laws, paid taxes, made a living, and made decisions that best suited themselves and their families. It is even believed that the first compulsory education law for children in South Carolina was passed here.
Today, Mitchelville Freedom Park, along this beautiful shoreline, exists to commemorate these individuals who bravely stepped into freedom in spite of the challenges they faced.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45.
Freedom is more than a right or privilege we deem to others or earn ourselves. It’s a gift from God. But true freedom doesn’t come from any government. It’s not granted by a more powerful entity or individual to a less powerful one. It comes from God Himself and is found by obedience to His instructions.
The original language of this verse connotes a “wide, open space.” In other words, as we obey God, we do not feel constrained, as some may think. Instead, we feel great liberty – liberty to live in a way that is honoring to God and pleasing to us. There is no greater freedom.