Washington, D.C./ Arts & Culture
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Published on May 21, 2024
National Archives' Historic Showcase of Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth Order in DCSource: Recreation.gov.

In a rare and historic display, the National Archives in Washington, DC, will showcase two pivotal documents of American history: the original Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3, known prominently as the 'Juneteenth' order. Archivist of the United States, Dr. Colleen Shogan, stated, “The Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 are fundamental to understanding our nation’s history,” This exhibition, set to run from June 18 to 20, 2024, arrives just days before the annual Juneteenth celebrations, marking a significant moment in the country's ongoing journey toward equality.

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declared that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." This landmark document has been credited not only with altering the trajectory of the Civil War but also with ushering in a new era of recognition for Black men into the military service. General Order No. 3, which was issued on June 19, 1865, by U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, brought the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation to the enslaved population in Texas, effectively freeing 250,000 individuals nearly two and a half years after Lincoln's proclamation, as mentioned by the National Archives' website.

Juxtaposing these two documents side by side, the National Archives invites visitors to reflect on the protracted struggle for freedom and the profound implications both historical items bore. As noted on the National Archives' website, this display is enhanced by the extended exhibit hours and the opportunity for visitors to reserve timed entry tickets. Also, on June 18, the McGowan Theater will host interactive performances by Verbal Gymnastics Playback Theater, where audiences can share personal reflections on what Juneteenth means to them.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, stands as the oldest national celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, and it was made a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, by President Joe Biden. However, emancipation did not fully materialize until December 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was ratified, legally abolishing slavery. The narrative of emancipation as showcased through the Archives' display evidences not only a historical waypoint but a continually evolving understanding and acknowledgment of freedom's complexity in America's fabric.

Located at Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW, the National Archives Building offers free admission and is fully accessible. The Emancipation Proclamation and 'Juneteenth' General Order No. 3 Featured Document Presentation is made possible by the National Archives Foundation and the generous support of The Boeing Company.