National Archives News

National Archives Celebrates Freedom with Juneteenth Events

By Pete Lewis | National Archives News

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2024 – In celebration of Juneteenth, from June 18 to 20, the original Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 were on public display in the National Archives’ East and West Rotunda Galleries, respectively. The Archives held special extended exhibit hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m to maximize public availability during this exhibition of rare, historic documents.

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The Emancipation Proclamation (page 1). Record Group 11 General Records of the United States.

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(Foreground from left to right) Pamela, Nous, and Erin, from improvisation group Verbal Gymnastics, reenact attendee Shannon Ross’s experience on what freedom means to her, during a performance at the National Archives, June 18, in celebration of Juneteenth. (National Archives photo by Brittney Meadors)

In addition, the National Archives announced that the Emancipation Proclamation will be put on permanent display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, in 2026.

“The Emancipation Proclamation represents a pivotal moment in American history, fundamentally transforming freedom in our nation,” Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan said. “I’m honored to help increase access to the National Archives’ holdings and tell a more comprehensive story by displaying this vital record among the nation’s foundational documents.”

The permanent display is supported by a commitment from Boeing to the National Archives Foundation. The Emancipation Proclamation will be encased inside the Rotunda near the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.

Also, on June 18, the National Archives hosted Verbal Gymnastics/Playback Theater for interactive performances in the William G. McGowan Theater. Attendees shared stories of what Juneteenth means to them, and actors, musicians, and storytellers used improvisation to play back what was shared, and engaged the audience with innovative storytelling.

Shannon Ross, an event attendee from Georgia, had high praise for the improv group.

"I thought that was an awesome improv reenactment they did of my grandparents’ struggles, their life,” Ross said. “I will never, ever forget this, and I’m going to tell the little bit of family that I still have about what I saw today. I don’t think anyone has ever given my grandparents their props, but they definitely got them today.”

View the performance on the National Archives YouTube Channel.

Visit the National Archives online and the National Archives Catalog for more information on Juneteenth.

Check the National Archives Calendar of Events for information on future events.

The Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 Featured Document Presentation is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of The Boeing Company.