Signed Copy Of Emancipation Proclamation Opens For Juneteenth

Jun 18, 2015

A signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center starting Friday.

Freedom Center president Clarence Newsome says Friday is the 150th anniversary of Emancipation Day, also known as Juneteenth.

“The date in 1865 when the last slaves in America, that we know about, were freed when General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order #3, almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” says Newsome.

The proclamation ordered the end of slavery in the Confederate states.

After Lincoln signed the Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, he signed another 48 copies that were sold to support Northern troops in the Civil War. 

An 1864 copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, on display at the Freedom Center.
Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Only 26 copies are known to exist today, and one of those will be on display at the Freedom Center.  It is on loan from David Rubenstein.

Newsome says Friday is Juneteenth, but says the document is still relevant for today.

“This is a moment for us to have this document here; and I want us all to celebrate it and then be recharged, to ask ourselves what can we do so that what happened last night doesn’t keep happening.”

Newsome was referring to a shooting in a South Carolina church that left nine people dead.

The copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will be at the Freedom Center for a year, but will be on display only at certain times.  Because the paper is old, it is displayed in a controlled environment, with limited light exposure. For some periods during the next year, the document will be put away.