NCC's new Civil War exhibit showcases America's road to equality

Wednesday, June 19, is Juneteenth, an African-American celebration commemorating the end of slavery in America.

At The National Constitution Center, there's a new exhibition on America's road to equality. It's the first of its kind in the nation.

The exhibition is called "Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality."
"It's really about how the Declaration of Independence declared that all men are created equal but with the 1787 Constitution, that promise of equality is thwarted, by allowing slavery to continue," says Elena Popchock, Exhibition Developer at the Civil War & Reconstruction.

The exhibit shows how those Constitutional clashes helped to trigger the bloodiest war in American history... and led to the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments in the five years of reconstruction after the Civil War.

"It's absolutely important to tell this story", Popchock says. "So many of the questions that we wrestle with today about what citizenship is, what freedom is, what equality is, really are rooted in reconstruction," says Popchock.

It is the nation's first permanent gallery to deal with what has been called "America's Second Founding." There are interactive exhibits for each of the three new amendments ending slavery.

"People can explore the drafting process of each amendment," says Popchock.

There are about 120 original artifacts on view, including Dred Scott's original petition for freedom.

"Dred Scott could not read or write as many enslaved people could not because it was illegal to get an education. He marks his petition with an X," says Popchock.
In the 1857 case, one Supreme Court justice argues that African Americans had no rights. "A dissenting opinion saying no, African Americans are citizens if they are born here," describes Popchock.

There's also a pen used by Abraham Lincoln, and General Ulysses S. Grant's cigar and pipe lighter.

"The people who have just amazing stories from enslavement into holding political office or voting for the first time.

"It's just so beautiful," says Popchock.

This Wednesday, in celebration of Juneteenth, the NCC will begin staging Fourteen, a 30-minute theatrical performance on the ratification of the 14th amendment.

You can find the link for tickets here
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