Speaking to a few hundred people at Tabernacle Baptist Church during an Emancipation Day Celebration, Mr. Thurmond said the order signed by President Lincoln was only the beginning.
"Some say, if you want this Emancipation Day to be special, recognize that (the) process that began on Jan. 1, 1863, is still ongoing today," he said at the event organized by the Augusta Lincoln League. "The physical chains have been broken, but I come to tell you that even though we are no longer legally in servitude, there are many of us who are still enslaved by fear this afternoon.
"There are many of us who are enslaved by self-doubt this afternoon. There are many of us enslaved by debt."
Mr. Thurmond, a Paine College graduate who has been labor commissioner since 1999, then warned of the dangers of trying to "keep up with the Joneses."
"One thing you should never do," he said, "is never allow your neighbor to spend your paycheck."
He challenged those attending to liberate themselves from things that might be holding them back and encouraged those facing tough times to stay strong.
"Don't give out, don't give in and don't give up," he said.
During the program, the Lincoln League recognized Glenn Hills High School Principal Wayne Frazier as Citizen of the Year for his work in education.
The Lincoln League is a public service organization that aims to support education by providing scholarships to post-secondary students.
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