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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ Imagine what it might have been like. African slaves, pensive men, women and children, swaddled in rags, piled together, anxiously awaiting the dawn _ and their freedom.
It was Dec. 31, 1862, the night before the Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect, and those poor dregs were on watch.
That original African-American "watch night" continues today, 138 years later, as a tradition of the historic black church across the United States and South Florida.
Many Christian denominations have watch nights, or vigil services. White United Methodists, for example, began observing New Year's Eve watch nights in this country in 1770 _ a practice all but …