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Emancipation Proclamation on display for Black History month

Monday - 2/17/2014, 5:21pm  ET

The Emancipation Proclamation is displayed at the National Archives Monday, the last of a three-day rare display of the historic document. President Lincoln signed the order in the midst of the Civil War freeing slaves in southern states. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

WASHINGTON -- In subdued lighting, visitors quietly filed past the glass case, some gazing in awe at the pages on display: the original Emancipation Proclamation.

"Looking at it, it does move me because, when you think about it, people were looking for a way to make it possible for common citizens to have rights," says Paul Logan, a government contractor and retired Army major from Fairfax Station, Va.

America's Civil War president, Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing slaves in the rebellious states.

"That all persons held as slaves…..are, and henceforward shall be free," the document declares.

"For me, it's very special as an African-American in terms of history of the African-American people. It represents me, who I am, my family background," says Alvin Truesdale, a school counselor for Arlington County Public Schools, who moved to Washington from North Carolina 20 years ago.

President's Day marked the last of three days that the National Archives, celebrating Black History month, displayed the historic document. The proclamation is seen publicly for a very limited time each year because exposure to light can worsen the fragility of the document, which the archives hopes to preserve for future generations.

"I told my husband, I said we got to get down there. I knew it was going to be available this weekend and I just said we got to do this, because it's my history," said Antoinette White Richardson, who works for the D.C. Public Library.

"If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act," history quotes Lincoln telling those around him when he signed the proclamation at the White House on New Year's Day, 1863.

"It just brings tears to my eyes and it's hard to believe and it's shocking where we were and it just makes me so happy that I'm living in the time we are, right now," says Jeff Wilson, an Arlington County art teacher.

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