Current Weather
The Spy FM

Harlem Hosts First Strokes Of Emancipation

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
September 22, 2012

Saturday marks the 150th anniversary of a crucial moment in U.S. history. On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, announcing his intention to free the slaves in the states rebelling against the Union.

Lincoln didn’t officially free the slaves in the Confederacy until the formal Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. But he announced his intention to do it 100 days earlier, in what historians call the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This — and Lincoln’s hand-written manuscript — are both on display starting this weekend in Harlem.

“There’s a simple way to remember it, as this moral moment of freedom. But as always with politics, there’s actually a complicated history behind it,” says John King, New York State’s commissioner of education.

He says Lincoln was trying to strike a delicate balance. He wanted to free the slaves partly to give the Union a military advantage over the Confederacy. But Lincoln wanted to do it without actually abolishing slavery. That would have offended the border states that sided with the Union, and where slavery was still legal.

If you look at Lincoln’s manuscript closely enough, you can see the effort he put into it. Khalil Gibran Muhammad directs the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where the manuscript is on display this weekend.

“Even his own struggle — the newspaper clippings cut out here, the scratched-out sentences and trying to figure out what precise language — shows us just how hard it is to do the work of making freedom and democracy real for people. This is one of those transformative moments,” he says.

Muhammad notes that Lincoln didn’t create this moment all by himself. Throughout the war, he was hearing from generals in the field about slaves who ran away by the thousands, hoping to join the Union army.

“To say, ‘We are here to demand our freedom. And we know you are here for other reasons. But you can’t ignore us. We won’t be ignored,’ ” Muhammad says.

Lincoln’s handwritten manuscript didn’t stay in his possession for long. It was auctioned off in 1864 — before the Civil War was even over — to raise money for relief efforts. Then the manuscript was sold to the state of New York, which helped to organize the current traveling exhibition. It opened Friday with a special showing for high school students in Harlem. Senior Kamal Grant says, for him, the manuscript symbolizes opportunity.

“It’s basically the reason we why we’re even looking at it right now. Because it gave people like me a chance to even be relevant in the world,” he says.

Lincoln’s manuscript is on display in Harlem through Monday before traveling to seven other cities around the state. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center