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Reflecting on the Emancipation Proclamation's Visit to Henry Ford Museum

June 23, 2011 Archive Insight, Think THF

Earlier this week, we had the wonderful opportunity to host a most historic document: the Emancipation Proclamation.

Guests viewing EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

This document, which was issued and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, formally proclaimed freedom for all slaves and invited black men to join the Union Army and Navy, resulting in the enlistment of approximately 200,000 freed slaves and free black people before the Civil War's end. (For more details on the document, and why it can only be displayed for 36 hours at a time, check out the National Archives' Prologue blog post on the Emancipation Proclamation's visit to our museum.)

As word spread about the document's visit, the excitement and anticipation began to build across the Metro Detroit area - and when it was all said and done, an astonishing 21,015 people streamed past this historic document at Henry Ford Museum in 36 hours.

Lines for EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Line to DCW exhibit - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Line under DC3 - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Just before the Emancipation Proclamation was made available for public viewing, our opening ceremony welcomed visitors and set the stage for this exciting event with remarks by our chairman of the board, Evan Weiner; our president, Patricia Mooradian; and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, whose maternal and paternal grandparents were slaves.

Evan Weiner speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Patricia Mooradian speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Judge Damon Keith speaking - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Afterwards, groups like the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit performed both solemn and rousing gospel songs for the rapidly-growing crowd.

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit - photo by Bob Brodbeck

The wait to see this historic document was long at times - up to eight hours - but most guests remained in high spirits, enjoying the performances on the stage near the exhibit, participating in hands-on activities like "enlisting" in the Army or taking breaks to check out artifacts throughout the museum, which was also completely open and free of charge during this timeframe.

Guests looking at Reagan car during EP line wait - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Choir performance for EP - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Enlisting in the Army - photo by Bob Brodbeck

And an honor guard - comprised of the Headquarters Guard, 5th U.S. Colored Troops, Company C and 102nd U.S. Colored Troops - stood at rapt attention near the document at all times.

Honor guard - photo by Bob Brodbeck

Once again, we wish to send a huge thank you to everyone who turned out to see this important part of American history. We were truly honored to be able to host the Emancipation Proclamation, and humbled to see the response by our fellow Metro Detroiters. This was an experience we'll never forget, and we hope you won't, either!

Civil War, presidents, Abraham Lincoln, events, Henry Ford Museum, African American history

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