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Black History Month exhibit offers peek into the past of slavery, emancipation

February 15, 2013

To commemorate Black History Month, the Loyola University Honors Program is exhibiting 18th and 19th century documents relating to the history of slavery and emancipation in the United States. These historic documents, part of the personal collection of Stanley Klos and University Honors Program Director Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D., are on display in the new honors program space on the first floor of the J. Edgar and Louise S. Monroe Library.

The documents serve as real-life reminders of the history of slavery and are more than just pieces of paper. The folds in one 1810 slave emancipation document serve as evidence that the former slave, listed only as Sara, needed to carry that document on a daily basis to prove her right to live as a free woman, according to Yavneh Klos.

“Certainly our students and the public are familiar with the tragic history of slavery in this country, visualized most recently in the Oscar-nominated ‘Lincoln,’” Yavneh Klos said. “But films, however powerful, are fictionalized interpretations that only tell part of the story. These original documents tell their own stories, providing palpable evidence of the lived experience of slavery.”

The exhibit includes:

  • A 1787 printing of the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibited slavery in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. This demonstrates that slavery was a vexed political issue nearly a century before the Civil War, according to Yavneh Klos.
  • An 1865 printing of the U.S. Constitution that includes the newly ratified 13th Amendment, prohibiting slavery.
  • A copy of the Acts and Resolutions of the Third Session of the 37th Congress (Dec. 1, 1862 - March 4, 1863), including the Emancipation Proclamation with the printed signature of Abraham Lincoln.
  • A hand-written copy of special orders for New Orleans following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln issued by General William T. Sherman and signed by his aide-de-camp.
  • The May 1787 American Museum Magazine printing of “The Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society, for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes, Unlawfully Held in Bondage,” begun in 1774 and enlarged April 23, 1787. The document is signed in type by Benjamin Franklin.
  • A New Orleans True Delta, pre-Civil War eight-page newspaper filled with slave and secession reports including an account of South Carolina’s secession and an editorial enquiring of Louisiana’s residents, “What will you do?”
  • A hand-written deed of gift document inventorying the presentation to the author’s granddaughter of several pieces of “property,” including a “Negro girl,” a “Negro boy” and a “bay mare.” This makes starkly clear the legal position back then of human beings as property, according to Yavneh Klos.
  • A manuscript slave emancipation document, signed in the Indiana territory in 1810, freeing a woman named Sara.

For more information, please contact Yavneh Klos at 504-864-7330.

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