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Lincoln museum displaying rare copy of Emancipation Proclamation for Juneteenth

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Visitors to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from now into next month will have the chance to see a rare signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation as part of an exhibit honoring Juneteenth. 

The proclamation, the formal document issued by former President Lincoln in 1863 that declared the end of slavery in Confederate states, was unveiled at the Springfield, Ill., museum on Tuesday and will remain there through July 6. 

The display comes around the annual commemoration of Juneteenth, honoring when news of the proclamation reached Texas on June 19, 1865. The day is widely recognized as the official end of slavery in the U.S.

Juneteenth is being recognized as a federal holiday for the first time following President Biden’s Thursday signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. 

According to a press release announcing the Springfield exhibit last week, the copy on display at Lincoln’s presidential library is one of about two dozen still in existence and is signed by both Lincoln and former Secretary of State William Seward. 

The original proclamation is held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Coultas, the museum’s acting executive director, said in a statement, “Few documents in all of American history carry the weight of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

“We are proud to share it with the public and celebrate its connection to such a joyous holiday,” she added. 

The museum said that, along with the proclamation, it is also displaying an exhibit on the history of Black Americans and their fight to be recognized as full citizens, with a timeline spanning from 1787 to 2021. 

The exhibit also includes information on related history from the Illinois capital city of Springfield, including a riot that targeted Black people there and the first Juneteenth celebration in Lincoln’s hometown.  

The museum on Thursday live streamed an event on its Facebook page that included a discussion with a panel of historians and experts on the Underground Railroad and the role it played in leading many enslaved Americans to freedom in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Tags Abraham Lincoln Civil War Confederate States of America Emancipation Proclamation End of Slavery Illinois Joe Biden Juneteenth legacy of slavery Presidential library Springfield

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