ALPLM to display Emancipation Proclamation as part of Juneteenth celebration


A signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will go on display this month at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in honor of Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in America.

The ALPLM’s rare copy of the proclamation will be displayed June 15 through July 6.

The museum also plans a window display on the history of slavery in America and a June 17 online discussion of Juneteenth and the Underground Railroad.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing anyone enslaved in states trying to secede from the Union. But the proclamation could not be enforced until federal troops captured Southern territory. That meant many people remained in chains until the end of the Civil War.

Among them were the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, who achieved freedom with the arrival of federal troops on June 19, 1865. The anniversary of that “Juneteenth” became an annual celebration that gradually spread across the country and came to symbolize the end of slavery, although that was not totally abolished until the 13th Amendment was ratified six months later.

The ALPLM’s copy of the proclamation is one of about two dozen remaining. It is signed by both Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward.

“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,” said Melissa Coultas, acting executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

On the same days the proclamation is in the Treasures Gallery, windows along one side of the museum will feature a display about the history of Black Americans and their fight for full citizenship. It includes a timeline running from 1787 to 2021 and touches on slavery in the supposedly free state of Illinois, a riot that targeted Black people in Springfield, and the first Juneteenth celebration in Lincoln’s hometown. It was developed by Juneteenth Inc. and the Illinois State Museum.

Historians will share their insights June 17 in an online discussion of the Underground Railroad and its importance in helping people escape slavery in the decades before the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. The event will include Deanda Johnson, Midwest regional manager of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom; Tim Townsend, historian at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and coordinator of the Illinois Freedom Project; and Jacob Friefeld, an ALPLM historian specializing in Midwest studies.

The free event takes place at 7 p.m. Central time and can be found on the ALPLM Facebook page.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.

For more information, visit or follow the ALPLM on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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