Lincoln museum to show rare Emancipation Proclamation for Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but the word of the long-awaited news did not reach enslaved peoples in multiple parts of the country until much later.

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In recognition of Juneteenth, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, will showcase a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation

While the original Emancipation Proclamation document remains in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the copy set to be displayed in Illinois has the signatures of President Abraham Lincoln and former Secretary of State William Seward. According to the Associated Press, museum-goers will be able to view the copy from June 15 to July 16. 

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863; however, word of the long-awaited news did not reach enslaved peoples in some parts of the country until much later.

Today, states including Florida (May 20, 1865), Kentucky (possibly August 8, 1863), and eastern Mississippi (May 8, 1865) commemorate Emancipation Day on the anniversaries that mark the first knowledge of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

However, it’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation did not effectively free all enslaved Africans and slavery in the U.S. was not abolished until the ratification of the 13th amendment in January 1865, and even that has loopholes.

Juneteenth honors the memory of the enslaved peoples in Galveston, Texas, who did not receive that news of their freedom until June 19, 1865—one of the latest known dates, with the arrival of troops led by Union General Gordon Granger. The decree Granger delivered read in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Abraham Lincoln presidential library and museum statues. (Credit: Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom)

As theGrio previously reported, the Illinois House passed legislation in late May that would make Juneteenth an official state holiday, giving a paid day off to state employees. If signed by Illinois Governor Jay Robert Pritzker, the bill would take effect immediately and in time for this year’s Juneteenth observance.

“I’ve been sponsoring this bill for a number of years, but when I tried to pass this previously there just wasn’t an appetite. Now, post-George Floyd, this is the time. Some would say this is an African American holiday, but it’s an American holiday.” said Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford, who championed the bill with State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford.

“Juneteenth should be a state holiday – it’s the oldest national celebration of the freedom of all slaves in this country. It should be celebrated by all Illinois residents in order to highlight how far our society has come,” said Lightford

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