The Schomburg Center unveiled a preliminary copy of the Emancipation Proclamation Friday, a day before the 150th anniversary of its historic signing by President Abraham Lincoln. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
Seeing Abraham Lincoln's precise cursive on yellowing pages, it's hard not to be transported back in time.
On Sept. 22, 1862, 150 years ago Saturday, Lincoln released the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It was a warning to states in the Confederate rebellion. If they didn't rejoin the union within 100 days, all the slaves in their territories would be freed.
Not one state accepted and it took the final Emancipation Proclamation and a Union victory to free them. But historians believe it marked a significant moral turning point in this country's struggle for identity.
"It's inspiring and it's hopeful as well," said John B. King Jr., the commissioner of the New York State Department of Education. "Even though America's progress towards democracy and equality has happened in fits and starts, it's a story of forward progress and that's very powerful."
Through Monday, visitors can see the exhibit at the Schomburg Center. Students are especially encouraged to attend.
"It's inspiring to me," said student Davjida Morris.
Teacher Veronica Bennett said she hopes her fifth graders make a personal connection.
"They're so far removed from this and they have no idea what the struggle was and what sacrifices were made so they can sit in a classroom such as ours," she said.
The Proclamation and a typed manuscript of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech commemorating the 100th anniversary in 1962 take visitors through the struggles and heartbreak of this country's march toward civil rights.
The center's director, Dr. Khalil Muhammad, said the journey isn't over.
"We're entering a stage in American history where it really calls us to think about these founding principles and the struggle to achieve them," he said. "We still grapple with the ultimate expressions of freedom. We still struggle with real equality."