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Press Release
December 23, 2003


National Archives to Display Emancipation Proclamation on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

Washington, DC. . . On Monday, January 19, for one day only, the original Emancipation Proclamation will be on display in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday and in conjunction with the National Archives' special exhibition "The People's Top 10 Selections of Documents That Shaped America". The Emancipation Proclamation, which was most recently displayed at the National Archives in 2001, was voted as the 6th most important document in American history by thousands of Americans nationwide in The People's Vote: 100 Documents That Shaped America.

The special display of the Emancipation Proclamation is free and open to the public. The National Archives Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom is located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, N.W., and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Christmas Day.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War, formally proclaiming the freedom of all slaves held in areas still in revolt. The issuance of this Proclamation clarified and strengthened the position of the Union government, decreased the likelihood of European support of the Confederacy and, as the Union armies extended their occupation of the southern states, brought freedom to the slaves in those states. The Proclamation invited black men to join the Union Army and Navy, resulting in the enlistment of approximately 200,000 freed slaves and free black people before the War's end.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it placed the issue squarely on top of the wartime agenda. It added moral force to the Union cause and was a significant milestone leading to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, formally outlawing slavery throughout the nation.

The Emancipation Proclamation linked the preservation of American constitutional government to the end of slavery and has come to take its place with the great documents of freedom.

For PRESS information contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 301-837-1700.

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