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About the Exhibition

One hundred and fifty years ago, the nation was engaged in what Abraham Lincoln called "a great civil war," a bloody conflict unleashed by decades of growing discord over the issue of American slavery. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln used his powers as commander-in-chief to issue a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, marking the first major effort by the federal government to end the brutal institution. Lincoln's order declared that all slaves held within Rebel territory—the eleven states of the Southern Confederacy— would be freed on January 1, 1863, unless they returned to the Union.

Lincoln's own handwritten 1862 Preliminary Proclamation—one of the greatest freedom documents in American history—is the only copy in the president's hand to survive the 150 years since. Though Lincoln's final proclamation burned in the Chicago fire, this precious relic has been lovingly preserved by New York State.

It will be fittingly accompanied by a document written for its centennial fifty years ago—by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On September 12, 1962, Dr. King delivered a memorable speech in New York City to celebrate the centennial of Emancipation day. Dr. King contended that the descendants were still waiting for full civil rights. Now these two documents will go on display for the first time together to mark the 150th anniversary of one of American history's defining moments.

Curriculum Guide for Teachers

As a companion to the exhibition, a 24-page Curriculum Guide is now available for teachers, parents, and community educators to download.