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Press Release: National Archives to Display Emancipation Proclamation Over the New Year's Holiday

Washington, DC. . . To celebrate the new millennium and the 137th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Archives and Records Administration will display the original signed document in the Rotunda of the National Archives Exhibit Hall from December 29, 1999, through January 2, 2000. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

The National Archives is participating in the New Year's activities on the National Mall with the display of the Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The National Archives Exhibition Hall, at Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, N.W., is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. The Exhibition Hall will be open on New Year's day, January 1, 2000.

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. The Proclamation invited black men to join the Union Army and Navy, resulting in the enlistment of approximately 200,000 freed slaves and free black people before the War's end.

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. It signaled the adoption of emancipation as a fundamental Northern war aim, and as word of this spread through Southern slave communities, the Confederacy was forced to contend with increased internal pressure from its black population. The document's commitment to emancipation, however, did not end the institution of slavery in this country. Nevertheless, the proclamation placed the issue of slavery squarely on top of the wartime agenda. It added moral force to the Union cause and was a significant milestone leading to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, formally outlawing slavery throughout the nation.

The Emancipation Proclamation linked the preservation of American constitutional government to the end of slavery and has come to take its place with the great documents of freedom.

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

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