WASHINGTON (AP) — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s March on Washington for Civil Rights were 100 years apart, but both changed the nation and expanded freedoms.
Beginning Friday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is presenting a walk back in time through two eras. A new exhibit, “Changing America,” parallels the 1863 emancipation of slaves with the 1963 March on Washington.
An inkwell Lincoln used to draft what would become the Emancipation Proclamation is on display on one side of the timeline, while the pen President Lyndon Johnson used to sign the Civil Rights Act is on the other.
A rare signed copy of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery — once owned by abolitionist House Speaker Schuyler Colfax, who helped push the resolution through Congress — is on loan from businessman David Rubenstein. It echoes the plotline of the current movie “Lincoln.”
At times when some believed slavery would never end and later that segregation would never end, history shows that creative leadership can “find a way to perfect America,” museum Director Lonnie Bunch said.
“It took courage, it took strategy, it took loss,” he said. “But ultimately, it changed America for the better.”
The exhibit is on view through September at the National Museum of American History while the black history museum is under construction.
The Smithsonian is publicly displaying several artifacts from slave life for the first time to set the scene for emancipation. They include the Bible that belonged to Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia, and a shawl given to abolitionist Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria. Another section includes shackles used to chain children, a slave whip and buttons used to identify people as property.
A broadside advertising a slave sale announces that “plantation hands” would be auctioned in the rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel.
The museum also acquired a tent from a “contraband camp” or “freedmen’s village” that sprung up to house slaves that had self-emancipated by crossing over Union lines.
“Slaves were not passive recipients of freedom,” Bunch said. “In essence, their action of running away forced the federal government to create policies that culminated in the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Facing the former slave’s tent in the exhibit is Lincoln’s everyday suit with a long black jacket, bow tie and his iconic top hat from the Smithsonian collection.
It is likely the first time Lincoln’s suit has been next to an encampment that housed formerly enslaved people since 1865, said Harry Rubenstein, a curator of political history at the Smithsonian.
Displaying Lincoln’s suit this way “tells a powerful story of him, in a sense, facing this encampment,” Rubenstein said. Lincoln encountered such scenes every day in his final years, seeing encampments of freed slaves in Washington as he rode about town.
The Civil Rights section includes posters and placards carried in the March on Washington and shards of stained glass from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four young black girls were killed in an explosion.
Bunch said he wanted to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1 and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in August. He also wanted to reach the crowds attending President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January. A passage from Obama’s first inaugural speech is quoted in the exhibition opposite a quotation from abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“I realized that the inauguration is a time when people begin to look back,” Bunch said, “to understand who we once were as we also begin to look at who we might become.”
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
1 of 30
2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
2 of 30
3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
3 of 30
4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
4 of 30
5. Jus haaaanngin out
5 of 30
6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
6 of 30
7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
7 of 30
8. new new
8 of 30
9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
9 of 30
10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
10 of 30
11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
11 of 30
12 of 30
13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
13 of 30
14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
14 of 30
15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
15 of 30
16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
16 of 30
17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
17 of 30
18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
18 of 30
19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
19 of 30
20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
20 of 30
21 of 30
22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
22 of 30
23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
23 of 30
24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
24 of 30
25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
25 of 30
26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
26 of 30
27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
27 of 30
28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
28 of 30
29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
29 of 30
30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
30 of 30