Photo of Emancipation Proclamation, along with the ink well used by President Lincoln to draft the document. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.
President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring all slaves in rebellion states as free and inviting them to join the Union forces fighting in the Civil War. The declaration paved the way for Congress to approve the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery in the United States.
The original and extremely fragile document (there are 48 other authorized copies) is available for the public to view only a few days a year. Those in Washington, D.C., can bring in the New Year at a late-night showing of this piece of American history, and celebrate the 150th anniversary of its signing.
Watch a video of how curators preserved the document:
For more photos of the Emancipation Proclamation, see the National Archives website.
Read the full text of the Emancipation Proclamation below, and find out more about the official events to celebrate the 150th anniversary, which begin this weekend:
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
Schedule: The public can view the Emancipation Proclamation in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives at Constitution Avenue and 9th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., on the following days:
- Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012: 10 a.m. -5 p.m.
- Monday, Dec. 31, 2012: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.
- Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
More events: In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Archives is hosting the following free events:
- Watch Night Festivities Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 at 11:30 p.m. – Performance by Washington Revels Heritage Voices, and at Midnight – Bell ringing by historical re-enactor portraying Harriet Tubman.
- Emancipation Proclamation Reading Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 9 a.m. – The first hundred guests in line at the main museum entrance at Constitution and 9th Street, NW, by 8:15 a.m. can see a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by musician and scholar Bernice Johnson Reagon.
- Family Day Programming Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Storyteller Bill Grimmett portrays Frederick Douglass in “Tales of My Friend Mr. Lincoln”; historical re-enactors will portray Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks.