National Archives opens 2nd Civil War show
The National Archives in Washington opens the second part of its magnificent “Discovering the Civil War” on Nov. 10 with a whole new assortment of fascinating, little-known and never-seen treasures from its vast holdings. And it tops even that with a special four-day display of the original and rarely exhibited five-page Emancipation Proclamation beginning on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, and ending Nov. 14.
There is much to like in this free show, from the handy device that zooms in on the image of a slave picking cotton that decorates a Confederate bill to an interactive exhibit that allows a visitor to decipher an encrypted military message. Visitors can also pick up a “sound stick” to hear letters read aloud that were written by slaves and freedmen to President Lincoln.
As fun as those things are, the original documents are the stars of the show for me. One is a log kept between 1865 and 1868 by a Freedmen’s Bureau employee at his Texas office. Although he was unable to do anything about the outrageous way former slaves were treated, he did keep a record of what he was told.
Three years after the war had officially ended, he wrote in an entry that a woman was “whipped 100 lashes because she hoed up a cotton stalk” and another woman on the same day reported she was, “whipped twice about 100 lashes altogether because he didn’t think she hoed fast enough.” A man was treated even worse. He said he was “whipped and threatened to be killed because he would not make a contract or leave
without getting his paycheck.”
When the show closes on April 17, both parts will travel together to museums where there is enough space for the 6,000 square-foot show .to be seen at one time. The Archives had to divide it in two because of space restrictions.
| November 5, 2010; 12:46 PM ET
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