Roberson to Host Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

By WBNG News

Roberson to Host Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

October 10, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2012 at 4:46 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Roberson Museum and Science Center will host a special two-day exhibition to mark the 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Thursday, November 1 from 12-8pm and Friday, November 2 from 12-pm. 

According to a news release:

The exhibition, The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, is making an eight-city tour across New York organized by The New York State Museum, a division of the New York State Education Department. 

The exhibition offers an unprecedented display of the only surviving version of the document in Lincoln’s handwriting and includes historical background and interpretation of the document.  The First Step to Freedom will also include the manuscript of a speech written and delivered in New York City in September 1962 by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Proclamation’s centennial. 

“The First Step to Freedom is further affirmation of Roberson’s importance to our community and beyond,” Roberson’s Executive Director Terry McDonald said.   “And because of our current exhibition on The Civil War, our visitors will be able to gain a rich local context for this profoundly important period in American history.”  School groups are clamoring to schedule tours that will visit both The First Step to Freedom and The Civil War as well as experiencing special living-history presentations.

Thanks to the support of the Roger Kresge Foundation, an Anonymous community donor and other supporters, Roberson admission will be free for the duration of The First Step to Freedom.  Roberson staff members are gearing up for an unprecedented number of visitors and potentially long lines.  To help accommodate these numbers, we are expanding our hours on Thursday, November 1 when we will open to the public at noon and close at 8:00 PM. On Friday, November 2, we will be open from noon to 5:00 PM.   

The First Step to Freedom comes with stringent guidelines and armed guards.  We are both privileged and humbled to be the site of its display and the vehicle through which our community will view it. 

"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.”
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.

More on the Document: Lincoln’s handwritten Preliminary Proclamation, issued one hundred fifty years ago in the midst of the Civil War, 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.