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For "The First Step to Freedom" Abraham Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps that is why I am so fascinated with it. As much as I am looking forward to the future, especially in my own life, I am constantly looking back. I have a fascination with history and historic artifacts. It is almost incomprehensible that these events actually took place and we still have many relics from so long ago.

When it comes to American history my favorite topics include our founding fathers (, particularly presidents. I want to see their keepsakes in museums, their houses, and even where they are buried. That one huge mansion that everyone after John Adams has shared has been the one giant goal in my mind’s eye.  For security purposes and for my hopes of getting to visit in the future (despite the anonymity of this blog) I will keep those thoughts to myself for now.

I also have favorite presidents. After all, I do not like just any celebrity either. I like a president based on what they have done for our country. The impossible boundaries they have crossed ( The miracles changes they have made. For all of the impacts we still feel today. Those are the leaders that give me goose bumps. I admire anyone whose heroic actions outweighed the danger to themselves or their legacy. Naturally, Abraham Lincoln is high on that list.

Whenever I go to Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital (like you don’t know, you know right?!) I always have to stop at the Lincoln memorial. It is one of the most special and beautiful on the National Mall. But the part that gets me teary eyed EVERY single time is the inscription over his head that reads “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”.

Another historically extraordinary spot on this memorial is carved eighteen steps down from the top. On that stair you will see engraved very lightly, but is there trust me, (there are always park rangers to ask or others taking pictures so you can find it) is the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood facing the reflecting pool when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Between these two world changing men standing on that ground is like standing inside of a temple. 

When Barack Obama took office on his inauguration day, January 20, 2009, he used a bible that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. A great deal was made of this decision. Sadly I had many people asking why this was. I told them this is why God created the internet and a piece of my soul died inside.

Now since all of my readers are very smart the answer is obvious, right? Right! Lincoln is a crucial figure to our country and even more so to the black community. For heaven’s sake people Lincoln freed the slaves. If you don’t know that you shouldn’t be allowed to vote, have children, or leave your house.
September 22, 2012 marks the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. To be fair, this is the preliminary document, not the one that would be adopted the following year (1863) and free every slave. But this document, still preserved in Lincoln’s handwriting, demonstrated the future he envisioned. It was the first step and the first legal method of freedom for many.

My journey to this document all began with a tweet from a friend. There was going to be a special exhibit for only three days that would showcase this document at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.  I had never heard of this center before but I am always interested in learning about places like this. When I first found out about the 92Y I was in love. It is centers like these where there are lectures, exhibits, special events, and all kinds of things to enrich your life. They provide experiences that you wouldn’t normally run into otherwise. Those are the moments that give me a natural high. They are the reason I can muddle through the parts of the days and weeks we all dread, the routine parts of life. Needless to say as soon as I saw this I instantly reserved my tickets. A perk was that entrance was free. How could I pass that up?

After work my friend and I took a cab up to Harlem for the big event. We were so excited. Naturally I was going to make the most of it and a great meal was to follow. But you will have to check back tomorrow to learn about that. I was so curious to see what this research center was like.

When we walked in, it was very crowded. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any other exhibit and there was a line in the room leading up to the document we were all there to see. There was this amazing energy in the room of excitement and eager patience. There were several panels detailing the history from the beginning all through today. But I couldn’t focus I was concentrating on my turn at the looking glass.

I loved that pictures were allowed as long as there was no flash photography. I was saving my battery and even packing a spare. When we finally approaching this wonder, I wouldn’t let anyone rush me along. It was magical. It was so clear still. You could still make out the words. It gave me chills and brought tears to me eyes. I wanted to wrap my hands around the glass it was in but I didn’t want to sound off the alarms. 

After we were done with the exhibit we went downstairs were there was a frenzy of activity. There were film crews and people going into a theater. Apparently it was an event for Education Nation hosted by NBC journalist Pat Battle. She had this great line “no one can take education from you” which is why it is so important. I think that is such a great message and one that we all should be promoting. After Pat, there was a panel discussion led by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and Professor/Author Stephen L. Carter. Mr. Carter’s latest book “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln” starts with the premise that President Lincoln lived through the assassination attempt and seeks to see how history could have been affected.

As I was doing research for this blog I stumbled upon a New York Times article from 2009 and this ending caught my eye considering I had already written a similar theme:

“Though Mr. Obama did not emphasize his African American heritage as a candidate, the symbolism was evident and was reinforced by the fact that the swearing in was taking place the day following the national holiday to mark the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. He will take office less than a month before the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, another Illinoisan who took the office at a time of national turmoil and a man whom Mr. Obama clearly looks to as an inspiration for his own presidency. Today is about validation of the dream Dr. King enunciated 45 years ago on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial,” said Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and the highest ranking black congressman.”

I couldn’t help but hear familiar words in my mind. I was thinking back to the end of the exhibit, which showed all of the civil rights leaders and all of the progress that had been made since 1862. It ended with a picture of President Barack Obama. I thought back to my visit last year to the Lorraine Motel (

Ringing in my ears and in his voice as my eyes watered, were Dr. King’s immortal words:

“Free at Last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" 

On August 22, 2011 after many years of raising the necessary one hundred and twenty million dollars it cost to build, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opened. It is the first ever dedicated to an African American person and non-president. It is adjacent to the F.D.R. memorial, as fittingly diagonal from Mr. Lincoln.

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