National Archives to Display Original Emancipation Proclamation February 17 -19
Press Release · Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Washington, DC

Display and programs to mark 155th Anniversary and Black History Month!

The National Archives will celebrate the 155th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Black History Month with a free display of the original document from February 17-19, 2018, and special programs throughout the month including The Lincoln-Douglas(s) Debates: Known and Unknown - with Harold Holzer. The National Archives’ 155th anniversary celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of United Airlines.

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, February 17-19
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.

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.

Pages 3 and 5 (the signature page) will be originals. Pages 1, 2, and 4 will be facsimiles (the document is double-sided). The Emancipation Proclamation is displayed only for a limited time each year because of its fragility, which can be made worse by exposure to light, and the need to preserve it for future generations.

See a special short video about this special 155th Anniversary.

Related programs

Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
Tuesday, February 6, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Thomas Jefferson fathered three daughters, two white and one black. In her book Jefferson’s Daughters, professor Catherine Kerrison discusses the fascinating lives of these three very different women—Martha and Maria Jefferson and Harriet Hemings—while depicting the life of Thomas Jefferson through their eyes.   A book signing will follow the event that will stream live on YouTube.

Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital
Friday, February 16, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
In their book, Chocolate City, professors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove tell the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. While Washington has often served as a national battleground for contentious issues, the city is also rich in history of local activism. A book signing will follow the event that will stream live on YouTube.

Emancipation Proclamation Family Activities
Saturday, February 17, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., 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.

The Great Stain: Witnessing American Slavery
Thursday, February 22, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
There have been numerous books about slavery in America, but there is a dearth of material exposing what slavery was actually like. In The Great Stain, author Noel Rae provides first- hand accounts from former slaves, slave owners, and even African slavers. A book signing will follow the event that will stream live on YouTube.

The Lincoln-Douglas(s) Debates: Known and Unknown - with Harold Holzer
Thursday, February 22, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Watch Abraham Lincoln (portrayed by George Buss) and political opponent Stephen A. Douglas (portrayed by Tim Connors)  debate slavery and equality in the 1858 U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois. Afterwards, watch the “Unknown Lincoln-Douglass,” an “imagining” of a debate between Lincoln (as portrayed by George Buss) and Frederick Douglass (portrayed by Phil Darius Wallace).  This is the Lincoln-Douglass debate that never happened—using words from their actual correspondence and commentary.  Historian Harold Holzer will moderate. This event will stream live on YouTube. Reservations are recommended and can be made online.  Presented in partnership with the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia with support from the Illinois State Society, the Lincoln Forum, and the Pascal Collection, in commemoration of the bicentennials of Illinois statehood and the birth of Frederick Douglass.

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



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This page was last reviewed on February 15, 2018.
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