Harold Holzer to Moderate Lincoln-Douglas and Lincoln-Douglass Debates Feb. 22!  
Press Release · Thursday, February 8, 2018

Washington, DC

Black History Month event explores original debate and imagined one

Harold Holzer will emcee and moderate debates between Lincoln and both Stephen Douglas and Frederick Douglass on Thursday, February 22, at 7 p.m.   The event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater. This special event, titled: “The Lincoln-Douglas(s) Debates: Known and Unknown,” celebrates Black History Month and the 155th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which will be on rare display at the National Archives Museum February 17-19.  This event, the “Featured Document” display, and the programs listed below are made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of United Airlines.

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.

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.

Related 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.

Related programs and activities

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.

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

The National Archives Building is Metro accessible on Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station. To verify the date and times of the program, call the National Archives Public Programs Line at: 202 357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online.

For information on National Archives public programs, call 202-357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online at:  



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This page was last reviewed on February 14, 2018.
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