Lincoln Presidential Library to display Emancipation Proclamation as part of Juneteenth celebration

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A rare signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will be displayed this month at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield in honor of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America.

The holiday takes place June 19 and is marked by celebrations across the country. It marks the day that federal troops took control of Galveston, Texas, in 1865, about 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Though slavery was not completely abolished until the 13th Amendment, which came six months later, Juneteenth became recognized gradually by many states around the country.

Earlier this month, legislation making the day a paid holiday for all state employees and a school holiday was passed unanimously by the Illinois House, and by the state Senate last month. It will take immediate effect if signed by Gov. J.B Pritzker.

The copy of the proclamation, signed by both Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, will be displayed June 15 through July 6. It is one of about two dozen copies remaining and was donated to the museum, said Christopher Wills, spokesman for the museum.

“It is one of the ‘Leland-Boker printings’ — copies that Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward then signed so they could be sold to raise money for sick and wounded soldiers,” he said.

The museum holds a robust collection of books, documents, photographs and artifacts pertaining to Lincoln’s life and times, as well as other aspects of Illinois history. Guests can expect a variety of exhibits and mediums, including actors playing characters, 19th-century musicians and choirs, a Civil War band and even a Civil War ball, according to their website.

While the proclamation is being displayed in the Treasures Gallery, the museum will also have a window display on one side, detailing the history of slavery in America and the supposedly free state of Illinois. The display will feature a timeline running from 1787 to 2021, including information on a riot that targeted Black people in Springfield and the first Juneteenth celebration in Lincoln’s hometown.

The exhibit was developed by Juneteenth Inc. and the Illinois State Museum.

Along with the displays, the museum will host an online discussion of Juneteenth and the Underground Railroad at 7 p.m. June 17. Historians will discuss the importance of the Railroad in helping people escape slavery.

“We are excited to partner with experts in the field to discuss Illinois’ role in this famous network to freedom,” the museum said in a Facebook post.

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