“The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation”

Something very exciting is happening at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute November 6 and 7.  A rare Civil War document, handwritten by President Lincoln, will be on view.

MWPAI will exhibit the only surviving version of Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document in Lincoln’s handwriting, November 6 and 7 in the Museum of Art. The Museum will observe extended hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting


MWPAI President Anthony Spiridigloizzi said, “We are honored to be able to present this to our community.”

The exhibition, The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, was organized by The New York State Museum, a division of the New York State Education Department, and will include historical background and interpretation of the document. Also included is the manuscript of a speech written and delivered in New York City in September 1962 by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Proclamation’s centennial.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in New York City, 1962, on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation


State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. 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.

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. Lincoln’s handwritten preliminary Proclamation, issued 150 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.

“This unique freedom document did nothing less than change the Civil War—and change American history,” Harold Holzer, award-winning Lincoln historian, said. “In a very real way, this one-of-a-kind relic testifies not only to Lincoln’s resolve to expand freedom, but New York’s resolve to preserve it.”

A website featuring an online exhibition, with an education guide, an iBook for download, and additional materials, is available.

The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is sponsored locally by Trainor Associates and Trainor Digital.

Admission is free and open to the public.


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About Mary Murray

I love working in a art museum, and am especially lucky to be here because MWPAI has a remarkable collection of art and I have wonderful co-workers.
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