Exhibit: “The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation” at MWPAI
October 12th 2012 · 0 Comments
UTICA, NY–Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute will present an unprecedented display of the only surviving version of Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation document in Lincoln’s handwriting on November 6 and 7 in the Museum of Art.
“The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation” was organized by The New York State Museum. Historical background and interpretation of the document will be included.
The exhibition will also include the manuscript of a speech written and delivered in New York City in 1962 by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Proclamation’s centennial.
“The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in our history,” said MWPAI President Anthony Spiridigloizzi, “We are honored to be able to present this to our community.”
“America was born with the declaration that all men are created equal,” State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said, “but it took almost 100 years after our nation’s founding — until President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union achieved victory and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution — to begin to make that declaration a reality for people of African descent brought here as slaves.
“Fifty years ago, commemorating the centennial of its signing, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that the Emancipation Proclamation proved government could be a powerful force for social justice, but the promise of equality remained unfulfilled. And today, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary, the Proclamation is an important reminder that America is still a work in progress.”
Commissioner King, who co-authored the exhibit text, noted the exhibition incorporates collections and images from the New York State Library and the New York State Archives. He said the documents stand as important markers in the path to freedom and equality for African-Americans and are among New York State’s greatest treasures.
Lincoln’s handwritten Preliminary Proclamation is the only surviving copy of this document in Lincoln’s own handwriting. Lincoln donated it to the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which raffled the document at an Albany Army Relief Association Fair in 1864. It was later purchased by the New York State Legislature.
Although Lincoln’s handwritten final Emancipation Proclamation burned in the Chicago fire in 1871, the Preliminary Proclamation survived the State Capitol fire of 1911 and has been preserved by the State Library.
Dr. Khalil Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Harold Holzer, the award-winning Lincoln historian, co-authored the exhibit’s text with Commissioner King.
“This 150th anniversary exhibition presents a very special occasion to bear witness to a transformative moment in American history,” Dr. Muhammad said.
“This unique freedom document did nothing less than change the Civil War–and change American history,” Holzer said. “In a very real way, this one-of-a-kind relic testifies not only to Lincoln’s resolve to expand freedom, but New York’s resolve to preserve it.”
The two documents are on display for the first time together to mark the 150th anniversary of one of American history’s defining moments. A website with an on-line exhibition, and providing additional materials supporting the exhibition, including an iBook for download, and education guide is available at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/ep/.
MWPAI’s presentation of “The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation” is sponsored locally by Trainor Associates and Trainor Digital. Admission is free and open to the public. .