Constitution Day

Emancipation Nation

File:Battle of Antietam.png, WikimediaOn September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate troops squared off at Antietam Creek in the first major battle of the Civil War on Northern soil. By sunset, almost 23,000 men lay dead or wounded but the Union had won a desperately needed strategic victory. Five days later, President Abraham Lincoln, bolstered by the Union Army’s performance, issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, publicly declaring his intention to make abolition a goal of the war.

One hundred and fifty years later, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) sponsored Emancipation Nation: Celebrating Freedom on Constitution Day, to mark the momentous occasion. 

Two programs were held on September 17, 2012 to focus attention on the dramatic period leading up to the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. 

  • View the full panel discussion led by University of Richmond President Ed Ayers and featuring historians Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, Gary Gallagher, and Thavolia Glymph. This panel discussion was originally live streamed across the country on September 17th, 2012. During the question and answer session, the panel responded to questions submitted from live audience “watch parties” via Twitter and email.
  • On September 17th, the NEH and Howard University hosted a public ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, which celebrated the history of emancipation and the role it has played in shaping the U.S. Constitution. It showcased artistic interpretations of the emancipation experience through performances and readings by actress Alfre Woodard, actor Tyree Young, and Howard University students and alumni. Afro Blue, a Howard University a cappella group, also performed. The event concluded with remarks from Congressman John Lewis.
  • In a related event, Emancipation Nation: Celebrating Freedom on Constitution Day Student Contest, young people 18 years of age and older will be asked to 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. Winners will receive cash prizes and a trip to Washington. For details about the contest please see http://emancipation.neh.gov/student-contest/

For more information about the September 17th events, please see http://emancipation.neh.gov.