2016 Press Releases

National Archives Explores African American Life in DC before Emancipation
Press Release · Thursday, April 7, 2016

Washington, DC

Washington, DC…On Wednesday, April 13, at 7 p.m., the National Archives hosts a special program titled: “African American Life in Washington, DC, Before Emancipation.”

This event is free and open to the public and will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and streamed live on YouTube. Attendees should use the Special Events entrance, located on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW. The building is fully accessible. Metro: Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station.

As Washington, DC, became the focus of abolitionism before the Civil War, antislavery activists argued that the sight of slavery and slave dealers in the nation’s capital disgraced the nation and its ideals. A panel will explore life before the 1862 Compensated Emancipation Act and discuss the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Moderated by John W. Franklin of the NMAAHC, panelists include Mark Auslander, Central Washington University; Maurice Jackson, Georgetown University; and NMAAHC curators Nancy Bercaw and Mary Elliott. Presented in partnership with NMAAHC, the DC Commission of African American Affairs, and the DC Commission on Emancipation.

This public program is free to the public, but reservations are recommended and can be made online. For those without reservations, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The doors to the building will open 45 minutes prior to the start of the program.

New permanent exhibition features section on civil rights for African Americans

The new permanent exhibit at the National Archives, “Records of Rights,” uses original documents, photographs, facsimiles, videos, and interactive exhibits to explore how Americans have worked to realize the ideals of freedom enshrined in our nation’s founding documents and how they have debated issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity. A special section of this exhibit, “Bending toward Justice,” showcases the drive for civil rights for African Americans.

Selected related online resources

  • Check out the National Archives blog, Rediscovering Black History.
  • See the online Guide to genealogy resources for Black history-related research
  • See the Flickr album highlighting Black History-related images at the National Archives.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, popularly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). These records are the most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras.
  • See images from these records.
  • Read the Prologue Magazine article about the project to preserve and digitize this collection.
  • See the Center for Legislative Archives’ Congress and Harriet Tubman's Claim for a Pension “Congress in History” lesson plan.

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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