On Sunday, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is hosting a rare three-day public exhibition of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The showing commemorates the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the document. The proclamation was signed by the president on Jan. 1, 1863, as the second year of the Civil War was drawing to a close. Lincoln's decree led to the freedom of more than 3 million slaves. The special display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives kicks off a yearlong celebration of the anniversary. Throughout 2013, the Archive plans to show related films, and host lectures and panel discussions. The celebration activities are being chaired by Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.
Among other things contained in the proclamation was the call for blacks to join the Union Army or Navy. This resulted in the enlistment of approximately 200,000 blacks before the Civil War's end.
Fifty years ago on Dec. 28, 1962, during a rare visit to the Bay Area, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before an audience of 7,000 at the Oakland Municipal Auditorium to mark the 100 year anniversary of the issuance of the document. During the ensuing months of the following year, King and his followers would advocate for a so-called Second Emancipation Proclamation in order to further efforts of social equality throughout the nation. This effort would culminate in the famous "I Have A Dream" speech he delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a quarter-of-a-million people.
During its 100-year-old history, Oakland's landmark auditorium, now known as the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, has been the location for a number of noteworthy appearances. In recent years, however, the complex has been shut, due to budget constraints. Preservationists are hoping that one day the building will be put back in use.
Further impacting the Henry J. Kaiser Center has been the work on the nearby realignment of the 12th Street/Lake Merritt Boulevard project, which is being funded by Measure DD. Joel Peter, the project coordinator for DD (who is retiring at month's end) has stated that the boulevard project is close to being completed on schedule in early 2013.
Perhaps this will mark a new beginning for the historic auditorium, as well as its neighboring civic institutions such as the Oakland Museum and the Alameda County Courthouse.
Hopefully, ideas to find a way to reopen the Henry J. Kaiser Center can become a new priority as we embark on 2013.
For more on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, go to www.archives.gov/press.
Oakland Black History Month Tours are taking place in February. Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.'s other local visits here. The tour dates are Feb. 2, Feb. 6, and Feb. 23. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call the Oakland Tours Program hotline at 510-238-3234.