Press/Journalists
Press Release
December 4, 2000
Major National Archives Exhibition Features Original Emancipation Proclamation

Washington, DC. . . To mark the opening of the latest version of the popular changing exhibition, entitled "American Originals: Part V," the National Archives will display the original signed Emancipation Proclamation from March 16, 2001 through March 19, 2001. "American Originals," which features 37 of the most important and compelling documents that describe the founding of our nation, will remain on display through July 4, 2001, until the National Archives Building closes temporarily for renovation. (Due to the fragile condition of the Emancipation, the document may only be displayed for a limited time.)

The exhibition is free and open to the public. Hours are 10 AM to 5:30 PM, through March 31; 10 AM to 9 PM, beginning April 1. The National Archives Building is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.

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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