Rare Opportunity to See Original Emancipation Proclamation April 14-16, 2019
Press Release · Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Washington, DC

The National Archives marks the 156th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a free display of the original document from April 14-16, 2019, related programs, and a special display of the DC Emancipation Act. The National Archives’ celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of The Boeing Company.  See related National Archives News story.

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. The building is open 10 AM - 5:30 PM daily, and is fully accessible. Metro: Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station.

Featured Document Display: The original Emancipation Proclamation
East Rotunda Gallery,  April 14-16
When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he said, “I never in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper. . . . If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” The document proclaimed that slaves held in areas still in rebellion “are and henceforward shall be free.” It also announced the acceptance of black men into the Union army and navy. By the end of the war nearly 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom. This display coincides with the anniversary of Lincoln’s death (he was shot on April 14th and died on April 15th).  He viewed this milestone document as his proudest achievement.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. As a milestone along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.

Related Featured Document Display: The DC Emancipation Act
West Rotunda Gallery, April 12-16
On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this law came nearly nine months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. It provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to former owners who were loyal to the Union of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to locations outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 for each person choosing emigration. Over the next nine months, 930 petitions were approved, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.

Although its combination of emancipation, compensation to owners, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, the DC Emancipation Act was an early signal of slavery's death. In the District itself, African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation and continue to celebrate Emancipation Day with parades and festivals.  See related video and Prologue Magazine story: Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation's Capital.

Related Programs and Events
Discussion:  DC Emancipation Day and the Emancipation Proclamation
Tuesday April 16, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater and on YouTube
In celebration of DC Emancipation Day, join us for a discussion of both documents, which are on special display this evening.  Moderated by Howard University Professor, Edna Greene Medford, panelists include Bowie State University Professor Roger Davidson; historian and author C. R. Gibbs; and Howard University Professor, Elizabeth Clark-Lewis.  The Emancipation Proclamation and the DC Compensated Emancipation Act documents will be on special display between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.  Reservations are recommended but not required.  Doors open at 6 p.m.  There will be special performances by the Artists Group Chorale of Washington during the display and at the start of the program.   Presented in partnership with the Government of the District of Columbia.

Emancipation Proclamation Family Activities
Monday April 15, and Tuesday April 16, 11 AM - 3 PM, Boeing Learning Center
Stop by the ReSource Room with your family before or after viewing the Emancipation Proclamation and learn more about this important document through hands-on discovery.

Related exhibit section in DC and online
The “Records of Rights” permanent exhibit uses original documents, photographs, videos, and interactive exhibits to explore how Americans have worked to realize the ideals of freedom enshrined in our nation’s founding documents. A special section of this exhibit, “Bending toward Justice,” showcases the drive for civil rights for African Americans.

Related Online Resources
Emancipation Proclamation and DC Emancipation Exhibits Celebrate Freedom - National Archives News story
The ‘EP’ at the National Archives Pieces of History blog on the EP’s fabled history
Visitors Get a Rare Opportunity to See the EP National Archives News story
African American History web page highlighting National Archives’ resources


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This page was last reviewed on April 9, 2019.
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