History buffs get rare peek at Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Video: A Civil War exhibit and two important documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln were on display at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 17, 2013 to highlight the end of slavery in America. Thousands of people enjoyed an up-close look at the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. The free event was made possible by the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the state of Tennessee General Assembly, and volunteer efforts of Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife Honey. (Video by Lee Roberts)

 

Story by Lee Roberts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 17, 2013) – About a century and a half after President Abraham Lincoln signed them, two of the most important documents in U.S. history that served to abolish slavery are on display today at the Tennessee State Museum.

History buffs of all ages got a rare peek at the Emancipation Proclamation, signed Jan. 1, 1863, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, signed Dec. 6, 1865, and the “Discovering the Civil War” exhibition from the National Archives in Washington D.C.

This sign welcomes visitors at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 17, 2013. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
This sign welcomes visitors at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 17, 2013. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

Cathy Zellars and her daughter Mia of Murfreesboro, Tenn., traveled to see the exhibit because they wanted to learn more about the history of the Civil War and the historical documents that ended slavery. After seeing the displays they felt inspired to share a few memorable takeaways from the tour.

“I can’t say I’m a history buff, but I am ignorant to so many things,” Cathy said.  “And I just wanted to be enlightened – and boy was I enlightened.  I think it was very well done.  I’ll never complain again.  And I’m very thankful for the things I seem to take for granted.”

Mia added that the exhibit provided her with a different perspective than she normally gets during African American History Month.

“So I got to see war letters and how the soldiers were treated, even in just medical terms,” Mia said.  “It was very enlightening.  I really enjoyed it… I had never heard of the document being on display like this and I know it’s like a rare thing for it to be out like this.  It’s a huge event.  So it’s very nice to see the document.  It’s incredible to see the long way that we have come… we’re all different and so I think we all have a long way to go as far as accepting people who are different from us.  But to just see the progress and how we have progressed from then up until now is incredible.”

The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declared, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a news release Dec. 12, 2012 that it is an incredible honor for the state “to host the Emancipation Proclamation, a document whose significance to the history of this country, and this region in particular, cannot be overstated.  This delicate manuscript represents America’s recognition that all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

A spokesman for the museum said the documents are ordinarily kept under lock and key even at the National Archives.

“So people can go to Washington, D.C., and still not be able to see this wonderful document, one of the most important documents in American history,” said Mary Skinner, Community and Media Relations officer at the Tennessee State Museum.

According to the museum’s website, “The Discovering the Civil War exhibit, which will continue well beyond the Emancipation Proclamation’s viewing, is the culmination of 150 years of analysis, interpretation, and opinion on the Civil War through lesser-known stories and perspectives. Many items on display never have been publicly exhibited. Highlights include the original copy of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery along with South Carolina’s 1860 declaration of secession.”

The exhibit is on display from Feb. 12 through Sept. 2, 2013.  However, the two historical documents are only on display for 72 hours during a six-day viewing period from Feb. 12-18.

Entry to see the exhibit and displays is free thanks to the generosity and funding by the State of Tennessee, according to Skinner.  She also noted that Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife Honey were instrumental in working with the National Archives to bring the exhibit and documents to Music City.

Video Interview: Mia Zellars, a lifelong Ohio resident who recently moved to Murfreesboro, Tenn., spoke about her experience at the Tennessee State Museum Feb. 17, 2013, where she saw the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and toured the Discovering the Civil War exhibit. (Video by Lee Roberts)

Video Interview: Mary Skinner, Community and Media Relations officer at the Tennessee State Museum, talks about the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on display at the museum in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 17, 2013. The documents were part of the Discovering the Civil War exhibition from the National Archives in Washington D.C.  (Video by Lee Roberts)

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One thought on “History buffs get rare peek at Emancipation Proclamation

  1. This was a great story. I really liked how you added videos of the interviews you conducted. What an amazing opportunity to view such a historical document. Thanks, Brian Kerrigan

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