Washington, D.C.— The National Archives will commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a free special display of the original document from December 30, 2012 through January 1, 2013. 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.
The document will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives building, which is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, N.W., is Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station. Information on public programs and family activities surrounding the display will be announced closer to the anniversary.
Along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom. At the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln declared, “That all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The document, to be displayed by the National Archives, is the original Emancipation Proclamation, which is affixed with the Great Seal as well as the President’s signature on January 1, 1863.
Emancipation Proclamation Background
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “...that all persons held as slaves... within the rebellious states...are, and henceforward shall be free.”
Despite the expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to States that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border-states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon military victory.
The Emancipation Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union army and navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the union must become a war for freedom. It added mora force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically.
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.
For information on National Archives public programs, call 202-357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online at: www.archives.gov.