CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and to celebrate this historic day, Saturday, Charleston hosted its 156th annual Emancipation Proclamation Parade.

“I can’t even imagine where we would be as a people if the Proclamation wasn’t signed,” Robert Crawford, president of the Emancipation Proclamation Association, said.

The parade honors the pivotal document issued by President Lincoln nearly 160 years ago.

“The city of Charleston is the only place in America where there has been a parade to honor the Emancipation Proclamation for 156 years running,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “It’s pretty remarkable.”

This year was even more special because 2020 Olympic silver-medalist, and Burke High School graduate, Raven Saunders served as grand marshal.

“We’re excited about her involvement in this year’s parade and it gives us a chance to really change the attitude of Charleston in many ways,” Crawford said.

Organizers say this event educates the community and instills a sense of pride in the history of African Americans in the Lowcountry.

“From where we’ve come from,” Crawford said. “No jobs, no money, no education, to people now who have doctorates, a President of the United States. We’ve got a lot to be proud of.”

Some feel the parade can serve as a catalyst to create more change moving forward.

“It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate,” Unitarian minister Nathan Woodliff-Stanley said. “It’s been going on for such a long time as part of the history of this place. And I think a place that has that much history is a great place to make history.”

The parade concluded at the site of the International African American Museum, which is scheduled to open this year.