The latest exhibit at the Amistad Research Center on the Tulane University uptown campus honors the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a display that features documents related to the international slave trade, abolitionist movement and emancipation.
This portrait of Nancy Ruffin provides a glimpse into the society of free blacks. Several photographs and stories of free men and women who resided in antebellum Virginia and Boston are part of the exhibit. (Photo provided by the Amistad Research Center)
The exhibit, titled Am I Not a Brother, Am I Not a Sister?: An Exhibition to Commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation
, will continue through June 28.
One fascinating part of the exhibit is a six-page letter from Rachel G. C. Patten, a teacher with the American Missionary Association, who in January 1863 was teaching at a contraband camp near Washington, D.C., says Christopher Harter, director of library and reference services at the research center. Her letter relates the reaction of local freedmen upon hearing the Emancipation Proclamation, and reads in part:
The first day of January was indeed a happy day to thousands, many thousands, of our colored people. In the camp there was much joy manifested by our freedmen. They cried we are no more slaves! No more contrabands!
Harter says the exhibit does well in documenting how former slaves took the news of being free.
“While historians have noted that reactions to the Emancipation Proclamation ranged among those who were enslaved, from joy to uncertainty to fear, letters such as this provide us with a direct link to the feelings among some freedmen upon learning of the Emancipation Proclamation,” says Harter.
Other highlights in the exhibit include photographs, correspondence, and printed works about abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman and Thomas Clarkson; papers of a family of free persons of color in Virginia and Boston; documents concerning the founding of the Freedmen's Bureau; and documents chronicling slavery and the continued struggles African Americans faced following emancipation.
Admission to the research center is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.