President Lincoln's Handwritten Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Exhibit at State Museum

Release Date: 
Monday, February 3, 2020
Contact Information: 
Contact: Office of Communications Phone: (518) 474-1201


President Abraham Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation will be on exhibit at the New York State Museum from February 11 through March 1, 2020. President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War on September 22, 1862 ordering that in 100 days the federal government would deem all slaves free in states still rebelling against the Union. The iconic document, in the collections of the New York State Library since 1865, has been recently re-encased in a state-of-the-art, custom-designed encasement.


The exhibition is dedicated in honor of the late Regent Judith Johnson. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department commemorate Regent Johnson’s life and her unrelenting advocacy for educational equity and excellence for all children by dedicating this exhibition in her honor.


“The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, written by President Lincoln in 1862, is a treasured document in the New York State Library’s collections,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “This historic document presents a learning opportunity for adults and children to reflect on our nation’s past and celebrate the progress we have made and continue to work toward. We’re honored to dedicate this exhibition to the late Regent Judith Johnson and celebrate the countless lives she impacted with her compassion and knowledge and her vision that all students deserve equal opportunity to succeed in life.”


“The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is truly a national treasure,” said Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe. “More than 150 years after President Lincoln drafted this iconic document, we are proud to exhibit it and commemorate this pivotal, transformative moment in our nation’s history. It also reminds us that America is still a work in progress as we continue to work towards freedom and equality. The document’s new encasement will ensure that President Lincoln’s handwritten draft will continue to be preserved for generations to come.”


On September 22, 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, ordering that in 100 days the federal government would deem all slaves free in those states still rebelling against the Union.


The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is one of two surviving Proclamation documents in Lincoln’s own hand. Lincoln probably glued in sections of the printed Congressional Confiscation Act (laws passed in 1861 and 1862 with the intention of freeing enslaved people still held by Confederate forces) to save time—the fingerprint visible on the first page of the document could be his own. Although Lincoln’s handwritten final Emancipation Proclamation burned in the Chicago fire in 1871, the Preliminary Proclamation survived the State Capitol fire of 1911 and has been preserved by the State Library.


Photos and a transcript of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation are available on the State Library’s website.