People of all ages lined up in the Myers Fine Arts Building on the Plattsburgh State University campus for a rare chance to take a look at one of our nation's most important documents. Abraham Lincoln's draft copy of the Emancipation Proclamation -- issued September 22, 1862.
"It brings me -- the significance, when you are looking at these documents up close -- what an important part of history it was," said Barbara Rittershausen of Plattsburgh.
When the official proclamation was singed January 1, 1863, it freed tens of thousands of slaves. The document was eventually the foundation for the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery a few years later.
"It was a stepping stone for the civil rights movement even though it took years for it to take off. Without this document it would not have been possible," said Ashley Southerland from New York City.
Visitors even got to see what the nation's 16th president was thinking as he wrote the proclamation. It is littered with notes and sections are crossed out. For example, Honest Abe had considered compensating slave holders.
Being able to view the document is a very rare experience, this is the first time it has been on public display since 2005. "It spends most of its time in a vault in the New York State Library," said Jeffrey Cannell with the N.Y. State Museum. "Anytime it is in natural light, it fades and degrades. We need to take care of it, not just for the current generation, but future generations."
The New York Legislature bought Lincoln's version of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. To celebrate its 150th birthday, the New York State Museum is bringing it to five select sites around the state for the public to see.
"He had good handwriting. It's one of the few historical documents I can actually read. I've been to Philadelphia and I can't read any of those," said Bradley Neureuther from Beekmantown.
For some, the chance to view the document is inspirational. "It allows me to see there was hope back then, and that there is still hope today that we can overcome all the racism and prejudice that still exists," said Ashley Southerland.
The Emancipation Proclamation draft is on display at the Myers Fine Arts Building until 9 p.m. Friday.
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