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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

ECL hosts virtual meet and greet with “Emancipation Day” author

- the fiction book was the first presented through the

“One Book, One County” program -

by Sylene Argent

Photo by Merilyn Simonds: Pictured is “Emancipation Day” author, Wayne Grady.

The Essex County Library recently launched its new “One Book, One County” program, which is connecting readers throughout the region, who are simultaneously exploring the same literary material. The first book being explored through this new program is “Emancipation Day” by Wayne Grady.

  Just three days after Canada, for the first time, officially recognized August 1 as Emancipation Day in commemoration of the abolition of slavery, the Essex County Library hosted a virtual meet and greet with Grady. The author was pleased to speak about the fiction novel he wrote in 2013 with those who are currently reading it through the “One Book, One County” program.

  Grady was born in Windsor, and lived in the area until he was eight-years-old. His father, at that time, joined the air force, so he moved around after that point with his family. It wasn’t until Grady was in his 40s that he learned his dad was African-Canadian. Soon after, he set out to explore the African-Canadian situation locally and across the nation. He also began to research his father’s background.

  In the book, the main characters are Jack and Vivian, who are fictionalized representations of his parents, sharing some similarities but also many differences. The novel, Grady explained, takes place between 1943-1948. In the book, the couple gets married and has their first child on August 1, 1948, which is Emancipation Day.

  The meet and greet with those currently reading his book through participating in the “One Book, One County,” program was a successful and enjoyable event, Grady said. He said many hopped online to ask him questions about his novel and learn more about it.

  When he heard the Essex County Library, through its “One Book, One County” program was using “Emancipation Day” as its first reading project, Grady was thrilled.

  “Nothing makes a writer happier to have their book read eight-years later,” Grady said, adding the issues written in the book nearly a decade ago are issues that have been around for many years and are still being discussed today.

  He wrote the book to explore those issues.

  One outcome of the novel he did not expect was it becoming a gateway for some family members to talk about secrets they had a hard time talking about previously.

  Grady, before writing “Emancipation Day,” was a magazine journalist and had also written non-fiction books, mostly on science and nature. He recalls writing the fiction book was different than the type of writing he was used to, even as someone who was a literary-driven individual. Fiction pieces, he said, require different research methods and characters need to develop throughout the pages.

  In addition to “Emancipation Day,” Grady has written two others books, “Up from Now,” and the recently released, “The Good Father.”

  To learn more about Grady, log onto

  “Emancipation Day” will be available through the Essex County Library’s “One Book, One County” program until October 31 on Overdrive, where members can access eBooks and audio books. Through the program, there are no wait or hold lists.

  Manuela Denes, Manager of Community Services for the Essex County Library, reached out to Grady several months ago about participating in the event. He graciously accepted the offer, and everyone who attended really enjoyed the book and his talk, she said. “He has such a fascinating story to tell and is an engaging speaker.”

When the federal government announced August 1 would officially be Emancipation Day, “We couldn’t think of a better book to launch the ‘One Book, One County’ program,” she added.

Though Grady’s novel is fictional, annual Emancipation Day celebrations were popular in Windsor for many decades. 

During a virtual event the Amherstburg Freedom Museum hosted last year, Irene Moore Davis, President of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, explained “In the 19th century, wherever black people existed in Canada, they felt compelled to commemorate the day, August 1, when slavery was abolished across the British Empire in 1834.”

  During that presentation, she noted for decades, Windsor’s famous emancipation celebrations drew thousands to Jackson Park. It was renowned for dazzling entertainment, parades, food, family reunions, and fun. They were also annual celebrations of transnational Black activism and achievement.

She also spoke of Walter Perry, who organized the celebrations in Windsor for many years.

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