A detail of the Emancipation Proclamation. (Getty Images)
Reporting Ron Dewey
DEARBORN (WWJ) – Over 21,000 people viewed the Emancipation Proclamation for the past two days around the clock at The Henry Ford.
The document was packed up Wednesday morning and is on its way back to Washington after stirring up lots of emotions during its brief stop in Dearborn.
WWJ’s Ron Dewey spoke with some of those who stood in line waiting to view the document that ended slavery in the United States.
Helen Oliver of Ann Arbor was among the last in line to see the proclamation. It was not the first historic document she has ever seen, but none were more profound than this.
“Got my heart-strings,” said Oliver. “I’m from the south. My people were slaves; I had slaves in my family. I’m a history teacher. As a history teacher, I’ve considered myself very fortunate to see a piece of history.”
Oliver said seeing the proclamation brings a completeness to all the other historic documents she has already seen.
Dewey spoke with bleary-eyed people who held vigil for the rare glimpse of American history.
“It only took seven hours and 25 minutes for 20 seconds to view the document,” said one man who said it was worth the wait.
These were people who made a point to stay up all night, waiting hours for a document they would never see again in their lifetime.
“It was very moving for me,” said one woman. “Very touching for me. To know that that’s what gave me freedom.”
People who were there saw more than just a document, “To see so many people, different races, culture, to see people coming together.”
However, if you didn’t take the time to see the Emancipation Proclamation, you’re out of luck for now. Jim Johnson of the Henry Ford said the historic document doesn’t get out much. As far as coming back to Detroit, it may be quite some time.
“Last time it was here was 1948. That was some sixty-some years ago,” said Johnson. “It’s unlikely it would be very soon. It’s a very delicate document, it does not come out very often.”
Johnson said that the document is slated to go to Houston for the next iteration of this exhibit and then possibly the West Coast.