published Monday, February 11th, 2013

In Lincoln's hand: Chattanooga, North Georgia students to view the original Emancipation Proclamation

  • photo
    The first page of the Emancipation Proclamation is shown with a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln photographed by Mathew Brady, circa 1863. Courtesy of the National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government.

IF YOU GO

The original Emancipation Proclamation will be on view at the Tennessee State Museum from Tuesday through Feb. 18. It is part of the National Archives exhibition, "Discovering the Civil War." Timed reservations are available on the quarter-hour; however, there also will be limited walk-in availability 45 minutes after the hour. For more information, call 615-741-2692 or 800-407-4324 or visit museuminfo@tnmuseum.org.

Some Chattanooga and North Georgia students are about to glimpse a piece of history rarely seen outside the nation's capital.

Twenty-five advanced placement history students from Hixson High School and 81 fifth-graders from Ringgold Elementary will be among some 8,000 students from the Southeast to see the original Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln during its brief stay in Nashville.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance," said Ringgold Elementary School teacher Victoria Chandler. "The kids are thrilled."

The document rarely leaves the National Archives in Washington, D.C., but is being put on display in selected spots around the nation in recognition of its 150th anniversary. Lincoln signed the proclamation Jan. 1, 1863.

The Tennessee State Museum in Nashville will be the only stop in the Southeast for the unprecedented tour and display of the proclamation. The document is so fragile that it can only be exposed to light for 72 hours while in Tennessee. It will be displayed at intervals over seven days, according to a state news release.

Rossville and Hixson students will view it Wednesday, the day after Lincoln's birthday.

Students already have learned how the document changed the course of American history and was the beginning of the end of legalized slavery in the country.

"Mrs. Rushworth can talk about it all day, but to see it is like gratification," said 17-year-old Blake Burris, a junior at Hixson High.

Hixson's AP history teacher, Suzanne Rushworth, is taking Burris and all of her AP history students to Nashville to view the original document.

Chandler and seven other adults are taking the Rossville fifth-graders. Both groups also will see the original signed 13th Amendment that abolished slavery.

The 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation comes the same year that the country's first black president, Barack Obama, was inaugurated for a second time.

"We're still making history," said 17-year-old Hixson junior Shaunte Kilgore, who is going on the trip. "What we're doing right now ties into what has happened in our past. Our country has come this far since then."

Rushworth and Chandler and their students were among 8,000 people selected through a lottery to visit the exhibit. About 16,000 people applied.

Chandler wants her students to understand not only what the proclamation meant to people who lived 150 years ago, but what it means to them today and how it affects their lives.

"Literally the day we found out, I'm jumping up and down and screeching like a little girl," said Chandler.

Rushworth said she applied in September. For weeks she didn't hear anything, so she figured she didn't get in.

Then came the call in November from the Tennessee State Museum telling her that her class had been selected.

"Just to see it," said Rushworth. "It's the actual document that Lincoln signed."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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