Juneteenth – Lessons

North Carolina’s original manuscript version of the Joint Resolution recently traveled to the Vance Birthplace Historic Site near Weaverville, N.C., and the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia, N.C.  Two archives staff members traveled with the document to both sites – to monitor environmental conditions, set up and take down the display, provide security for the document, and answer questions about the document.  Preparations for the tour were detailed.  The attention to details in the planning stage made sure the execution of the plan during the exhibition was straight-forward and remarkable easy.  The parts worked as planned and the exhibition went smoothly.


On display at Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia, N.C.

The public is always the X-factor in these kinds of events.  The unknown is always the same – will people come out on a Thursday or Friday to see the document?  Both venues lined up a series of activities to compliment the exhibition – speakers, singers, local societies set up booths, continuous loop documentaries playing for visitors to drop in on, and friendly activity areas for children.  At both places the public turnout was great.


On display at Vance Birthplace Historic Site near Weaverville, N.C.

On display at Vance Birthplace Historic Site near Weaverville, N.C.

Many peoples thanked the archives staff for bringing the document out to their area so that they could view it.  The crowds ranged from the merely curious to those deeply moved by the document.  Some people wanted to take selfies with the document or photograph their children standing next to it – staff would offer to take pictures of whole families so that everyone could be in the photograph.  There were even individuals who were visiting to add the experience to their professional blogs or webpages.

This ongoing exchange between staff and the public created many moving moments.  One young mother brought her three children to the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum.  The youngest child was cradled on her hip and the two older children stood next to the document and their mom.  The standing children looked to be about eight and six years of age.  The mother asked the oldest child why was the document important.  He hesitated to answer her.  She reminded him about the conversation they had on the way to the museum.  Oh! He exclaimed.  It means the end of people having to be slaves and my ancestors could be free.  The mother nodded and smiled.  Watching this exchanged gave this staff member a whole new depth of appreciation for the document and a much better answer to the question of why the document is on tour.


The Juneteenth tour continues with two more opportunities this month for the public to see the document.  Please see our webpage for more information: http://www.ncdcr.gov/Juneteenth.