Emancipation in History and Memory: UVA Library Commemorates the Era of Emancipation

Beginning September 28, the Library will join with the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, and the University of Virginia Bicentennial to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans at the close of the American Civil War.

Three documents on loan from a private collection—an authorized edition of the Emancipation Proclamation and a congressional copy of the 13th Amendment signed by Abraham Lincoln, and an autograph quotation “The Right to Personal Freedom” signed by renowned abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass—will be on display from September 28 through September 30 in the North Oval Room of the Rotunda, and from October 2 to October 22 in the 1st floor gallery of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Other documents from Special Collections will be included in the Library exhibition.

Frederick Douglass, born into slavery, escaped to the North to become a tireless  advocate of personal freedom as a universal value: “Right is of no sex, age, country, color, or clime. The right to personal freedom is the most palpable of all other rights, as all rights depend upon the recognition of this right.” His autograph quote is one of the three rare documents coming to the University of Virginia that illuminate the legacies of the antislavery movement and of wartime abolition in American history.

Frederick Douglass autograph quote on display in the exhibition “Emancipation in History and Memory.”

President Abraham Lincoln, born into poverty, saw in the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence a universal creed of human freedom that the Union should strive to realize. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation 156 years ago this winter. Two years later, on March 3, 1865, Union troops arrived in Charlottesville and fulfilled the promise of emancipation for the enslaved community living in the city and at the University of Virginia.

There will be a reception at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 29 in the North Oval Room of the Rotunda, followed by a panel discussion, Emancipation in History and Memory, moderated by Associate Director of the Nau Center Elizabeth Varon, with guest scholars Edna Greene Medford and Richard S. Newman. Registration is required. Members of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers design team, Meejin Yoon and Eto Otitigbe, will provide an update on design and construction.

For more on the exhibition, read the article “See a Rare Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation with Lincoln’s Signature at UVA” (UVA Today 10/4/2018). And for more about the world-wide anti-slavery movement, please visit the Library’s online resource Slavery and Anti-Slavery.

Comments are closed.