January 1, 1773: The Greatest Hymn of All!

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A Brief History

On January 1, 1773, the all familiar hymn “Amazing Grace” was performed for the first time at a church service in England.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find what is generally considered to be the most familiar, best loved, all around greatest hymn based on music of unknown origin.

The words, however, came from John Newton, a cleric who wrote them years before with the inspiration coming from his time on a slave ship threatened by fierce weather.  The prospect of imminent death elicited the beautiful words we know today, and in them he claims to have found his faith, and the realization of how immoral slavery is.

January 1, 1773, was just the first of many January 1sts that are significant to people of sub-Saharan African heritage!

January 1, 1804 saw Haiti become the first independent nation ruled by Africans in the New World.

January 1, 1808 was the day the importation of slaves into the United States was finally banned, although it did not end slavery, as January 1, 1863 brought Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation into effect which freed slaves in the Confederate States, at least on paper.  The actual freeing part was largely dependent on Union troops liberating them. Many people do not seem to realize that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves in the two slave states that fought for the Union, Kentucky and Maryland.  That came later.

January 1, 1990, was the day David Dinkins became the first African-American mayor of New York City, the nation’s largest city, while on January 1, 1997, Kofi Annan became the first sub-Saharan African Secretary General of the United Nations.

Not that it necessarily has anything to do with African heritage, but it is worth mentioning that on January 1, 1971 cigarette ads became banned from television in the United States.  So all you smokers start your New Year’s Resolutions with anti-smoking in mind!  Once again, Happy New Year!

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think was the most important historic event that occurred on January 1st?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Binch, Caroline and Mary Hoffman.  Amazing Grace (Grace-picture Books).  Dial Books, 1991.

Boyle, Susan.  “Amazing Grace” from the album I Dreamed A Dream.  Syco Music UK, 2009.

Metaxas, Eric.  Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.  HarperOne, 2007.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.