October 20, 2005 - March 26, 2006
The New-York Historical Society displayed a facsimile of the original hand-written draft of the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln wrote while waiting in the telegraph office of the War Department for favorable news from the war front during June and July of 1862. It was written in pencil and on paper that was just lying about the office. President Lincoln read this document to his Cabinet on September 22, 1862 and told them that he firmly believed in its principles, though he would accept minor changes of wording. Except for some revisions by Secretary of State William H. Seward and the Chief Clerk, the document is otherwise entirely in Lincoln's hand. Lincoln signed the official Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which declared, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." The proclamation fundamentally transformed the character of the Civil War and announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.