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The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Expanded Learning Opportunities

Graphic promoting The Moral Arc toward Freedom: Lincoln, King and the Emancipation Proclamation exhibit that features photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. waving at crowd

The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King and the Emancipation Proclamation Exhibit

This exhibition is the centerpiece of the Office of Cultural Education’s observance of Black History Month 2024. Here, the State Museum, Library, and Archives bring together two remarkable documents: Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and select pages from a speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered in New York City on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.



Graphic promoting Black History Month collection from Consider the Source that features a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing at podium giving a speech

Black History Month: New York State Archives Partnership Trust

For Black History Month 2024 the New York State Archives’ presents, “Before Brown: Desegregating New York’s Public Schools.” This exhibit highlights early mid-20th century school segregation battles in Hempstead and Hillburn that were taken on by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a civil rights firm founded by Thurgood Marshall. The display, located on the 11th floor in the Cultural Education Center, will be up throughout the month of February. For a closer look at the documents and access to educational materials, visit the Civil Rights section of

Graphic reading Black History Month

Black History Month: New York State Museum

African American history is New York State history. This year a special exhibition, The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation, is the centerpiece of our observance of Black History Month. This exhibition will be on view from February 13 to March 3. Special in-person programming will also be offered at the Museum. Program details and a variety of educational resources available here


Photographs of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with handwritten text excerpt from the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in background. The New York State Education Department is highlighting primary sources from the Office of Cultural Education's collections including the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1962 Centennial Civil War Commission speech.

President Lincoln issued two emancipation proclamations -the Preliminary document on September 22, 1862, and a final document one hundred days later. In the first, Lincoln declared that all slaves within rebel territory would be "forever" free unless the Confederate states returned to the Union. Lincoln followed through with his promise, and on New Year's Day 1863, he signed the final Emancipation Proclamation. This draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the collections of the New York State Library is written in Lincoln's own hand and is the only one of its kind to survive. The annotated script of Dr. King's speech is in the collection of the State Archives. 

For Educators and Students

This webpage connects educators with a wide variety of rich resources including primary sources. Educators are encouraged to lean on these in support of learning around these pivotal moments in history. Guiding questions include:

  • What are the main ideas of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and how did they impact society?
  • What was the purpose of Dr. King's speech and how did he fulfill that purpose?

Students are invited to analyze the primary sources and further investigate themes of freedom, equality, and inclusion. Prompts include:

  • How have these primary sources impacted our country? What relevance do they hold to your generation?
  • What is an issue in your community that impacts you or someone close to you? How do you propose to resolve this?

Write a speech, essay, or poem! Record an audio or video file! Schools are invited to share classroom work through the New York State Personal History Initiative or via social media using the hashtags #BlackHistoryNY and #MyHistoryMyFuture. Through the #MyHistoryMyFuture social media campaign, the Department intends to amplify the voices of young people. We encourage students not only to reflect on the past but also to be proud of where they come from and take action to make their schools, communities, and the world a better place for future generations.


This initiative aligns with the New York State Social Studies Framework, the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CR-S) Education Framework and can be used as a starting point for students working toward the Seal of Civic Readiness.

The Office of Standards and Instruction has outlined the connection of this project with the Learning Standards, CR-S Education Framework, and the Seal of Civic Readiness. Click here to read more.

Why Primary Sources?

Primary sources make lessons and presentations come alive for students or participants. Materials shared provide inquiry and context clues to increase awareness and tell a story. Historical context within a narrative of primary source items prepares students to make connections for deeper understanding.