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Press Release - National Traveling Exhibition Opens at ND Heritage Center & State Museum

Erik Holland, Education Curator

Genia Hesser, Exhibits Curator

National Traveling Exhibition Opens at ND Heritage Center & State Museum

Bismarck – The public is invited to view Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963, a free national traveling exhibition that recently opened at the North Dakota Heritage Center. This exhibit, open through June 10 during regular ND Heritage Center hours, examines the relationship between two great movements that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the March on Washington in 1963. One hundred years separate them, yet they are linked in a larger story of liberty and the American experience.
Erik Holland, curator of education with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, said, “The story of these two pivotal events and how each helped put the nation on a course toward fulfilling its commitment to liberty and justice for all is inspiring. Decades of work, struggle, and sacrifice preceded both of these events. The exhibition tells the story of these struggles and their impact. This, timely exhibit also discusses ways non-violence was used to bring about change—an important aspect related to current race tension taking place in Baltimore and additional cities across the United States.”

On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved individuals in all areas still in rebellion against the United States “henceforward shall be free” and under the protection of the military. The Emancipation proclamation was limited in scope and revolutionary in impact. It committed the nation to ending slavery. The U.S. Congress responded with Constitutional amendments abolishing slavery, expanding citizenship rights, and giving black men the right to vote. These acts changed the political landscape, but the new freedoms were stripped away in the following years. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were also turning points in the struggle for equality. The bills outlawed segregated public facilities and prohibited discrimination in employment and voting.

Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963 is presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History in collaboration with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is part of their Bridging Cultures initiative, “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle,” which brings four films on the civil rights movement to communities across the United States. One of those films, The Abolitionists, will be showing in three parts at 2 p.m. on May 17, 24, and 31 at the ND Heritage Center.

“Created Equal” encourages communities across the country to revisit and reflect on the long history of civil rights in America.  The exhibition is traveling to 50 venues across the nation, including the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, accompanied by public programming that will help audiences understand and discuss the relationship between these two great people’s movements.     


About the Sponsoring Organizations
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as a Smithsonian museum by an Act of Congress in 2003. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. It is now under construction on Washington’s National Mall, on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is scheduled to open in winter 2015. For more information, visit

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage through exhibitions and public programs about social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. For more information, visit

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, exhibitions and programs in libraries, museums and other community places.  Additional information about NEH and its grant programs is available at

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