On January 1, 1863, as the nation entered its third year of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Although its effects were gradual, the Emancipation Proclamation fundamentally transformed the Civil War from a war to save the Union into a war for freedom, announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, and eventually led to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, formally outlawing slavery nationwide. By 1870, the 15th Amendment also was ratified, giving African American men the right to vote.
Because of its pivotal role in slavery’s destruction and in the history of our nation, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is revered today as one of the great documents of human freedom.
The official Emancipation Proclamation, signed and sealed by President Lincoln 150 years ago, is safeguarded for the American people by the National Archives. To protect the document, National Archives conservators work closely with the exhibition team to limit the Emancipation Proclamation’s viewing to a few days each year. A high-resolution facsimile is on permanent display daily in the National Archives’ “Public Vaults” exhibition.
Past Featured Records
Watch telecast footage of the 1968 Apollo 8 Mission, the first manned spacecraft to reach the Moon and safely return. This multimedia presentation features photos of the Moon’s surface taken from the spacecraft and an audio recording of the astronauts’ description of the lunar surface.
On display... Read more
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest operation of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I and the deadliest military campaign in American history. Fought from September 26 – November 11, 1918, by over a million American soldiers, the Meuse-Argonne operation was part of the final Allied offensive... Read more
In celebration of Alexander Hamilton and the Broadway musical inspired by his extraordinary story, the National Archives will showcase original records from the Founder’s life and legacy, paired with related Hamilton lyrics.
On display in the East Rotunda Gallery through September 18, 2018.
Remembering the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Business Information Surveys for the Civil Disturbance Report, June 1968.
In a turbulent decade filled with protests and social upheaval, the murder of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, resulted in widespread civil unrest in many American cities, including Washington, DC. The riots resulted in millions of dollars in... Read more
Telegram Requesting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Testimony before the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee on the Proposed Voting Rights Act, March 18, 1965
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a driving force behind the march that began in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 to protest the violent denial of African Americans’ right to vote. On March 15, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation in support of the Selma... Read more