A full 150 years after it was signed by Abraham Lincoln, the original Emancipation Proclamation will be displayed at the National Archives in Washington.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 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 "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."
The five-page document, exposed to light for only a limited time each year because of its fragility, will be displayed at the National Archives from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1.* Also, the Emancipation Proclamation will be read out aloud by various people on Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. On that same day, the National Archives will feature performances by actors portraying Harriett Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks.
The original Emancipation Proclamation document was tied with narrow red and blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by a wafered impression of the seal of the United States. Most of the ribbon remains and parts of the seal are still decipherable. However, other parts have worn off.
The display and performances are part of a large-scale commemoration of that defining moment in American history.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City is currently featuring an exhibit on the Emancipation Proclamation, with photos and a draft of Lincoln’s executive order.
* While the Archives' research facilities will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan 1, the public area where the Emancipation Proclamation is displayed will be open to visitors on those days.
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(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)