Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302
Website: View the exhibition online.

December 18, 2012 (REVISED January 9, 2013)

Lincoln’s First Draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to be on Display in January

The Library of Congress will place on display the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, handwritten by President Abraham Lincoln, for six weeks beginning Jan. 3, 2013, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the proclamation’s signing.

The draft document -- which has not been on public view since 2009 -- will be on display from Jan. 3 through Feb. 18 in the ongoing exhibition "The Civil War in America," which opened Nov. 12 and runs through June 1 in the Southwest Exhibition Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is free and open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The exhibition, viewed by more than 40,000 visitors in its first month, is made possible by the generous support of the James Madison Council. Additional funding is provided by Union Pacific Corporation, the Liljenquist family and AARP.

President Lincoln read this first draft to his cabinet on July 22, 1862, and requested their comments. The response varied, according to Michelle Krowl, the Civil War and Reconstruction specialist in the Manuscript Division of the Library.

"Some worried about the after-effects. Some wondered about how it might affect the mid-term elections. And others pointed out that the Union army was not doing so well at that time, and that it might be advisable to wait until the Union army had a victory so the document would be presented with a backdrop of strength rather than weakness," Krowl said.

Lincoln agreed to hold off until a Union victory, and he got one Sept. 17, 1862 at Antietam. On Sept. 22, he put forward the official preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The final Emancipation Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863.

"The Emancipation Proclamation was presented as a war measure, freeing slaves as a way of weakening the enemy by taking away their labor force," Krowl explained. "It was one of a series of documents and actions that paved the way for passage of the 13th Amendment that would permanently abolish slavery."

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

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PR 12-223
ISSN 0731-3527

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