Press/Journalists
Press Release
November 20, 1998
54th Massachusetts Infantry Reenactors to Serve as Honor Guard for the Emancipation Proclamation

Washington, D.C. ... On Saturday, January 16, 1999, from 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M., in the National Archives Rotunda, reenactors of the historic 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the most celebrated regiments of black soldiers that fought in the Civil War, will serve as honor guard in a ceremonial watch over the original Emancipation Proclamation.

The document will be on display Friday, January 15, 1999, through Thursday, January 21, 1999. The National Archives Rotunda will be open on Martin Luther King's Birthday, Monday, January 18, 1999. The exhibition will be free and open to the public. The document will be displayed in a free-standing case in the National Archives Rotunda, at Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, from 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. daily.

Members of the all-volunteer reenactment group will be dressed in exact replicas of the uniforms of the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment: Dark blue wool uniforms with brass buttons and belt buckles, traditional forage caps, leather brogans with square toes designed to be worn on either foot, and British Enfield rifles. The reenactors are available to answer historical questions about the Regiment.

Background about the Emancipation Proclamation: President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War, formally proclaiming the freedom of all slaves held in areas still in revolt. The issuance of this Proclamation clarified and strengthened the position of the Union government, decreased the likelihood of European support of the Confederacy and, as the Union armies extended their occupation of the southern states, brought freedom to the slaves in those states. Many historians credit the Emancipation Proclamation with changing the character of the Civil War from a struggle to preserve the Union to a crusade for human liberty. The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was a significant milestone leading to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, formally outlawing slavery throughout the nation.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.

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