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NEH Planning Events on Constitution Day to Mark 150th Anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation

August 10, 2012 – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is sponsoring a series of events, Emancipation Nation: Celebrating Freedom on Constitution Day, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Three programs are scheduled for September 17, 2012. They include a reception for student contest winners, live-streamed panel presentation with Civil War scholars at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

10 a.m. EDT: Winners of a contest, Emancipation Nation: Celebrating Freedom on Constitution Day Student Contest, will be honored at a reception at the Eisenhower Executive Office building.  The final deadline for entries for the student contest— in which students submit essays or other original works based on documents presented in two NEH-funded digital projects: The Freedman and Southern Society Project and Visualizing Emancipation —is September 4, 2012.

1:30 p.m. EDT: A discussion of the events leading up to the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation by a panel of five Civil War scholars will be presented at the Warner Brothers Theater in the Smithsonian Museum of American History and live-streamed into schools, libraries and community centers across the country.  “Watch parties” will be held at satellite locations, modeled on the watch parties Northern abolitionists held on the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation becoming law.

5-6 p.m. EDT:  A wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial featuring music and readings about the Emancipation Proclamation will be held in cooperation with Howard University.  This event is open to the public. 

The afternoon panel will be moderated by University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, award-winning author of books on the Civil War and creator of the Valley of the Shadow digital project.  Eric Foner, Dewitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, will describe the perspective of President Lincoln.  Thavolia Glymph, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and History at Duke University and the author of essays on slavery and emancipation, will describe the situation as it appeared to enslaved African Americans.  Gary Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia and author and editor of books on the Civil War, will analyze the military context of Emancipation, and Christy Coleman, President and CEO of the American Civil War Center in Richmond, Virginia and writer and lecturer on Civil War topics, will portray the views of Frederick Douglass, abolitionists, and Northern free blacks.

Through a partnership with the Smithsonian Museum of American History and with the support of History Channel, students and teachers across the country will be able to participate in the afternoon discussion.  The public can watch the program online as it happens and the historians will take questions from audience members and respond to questions posed via Twitter.

The Emancipation Nation program coincides with Constitution Day.  In 2004, Congress declared September 17 as Constitution Day, mandating that all federally-funded educational institutions study the U.S. Constitution. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is a key moment in the process that led to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. 

Additional information aboutthe September 17th events is available on the NEH website.  

[Posted by: Erin Mosley] 

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