The Emancipation Proclamation at The Henry Ford Museum

Photo Credit - National Archives General Records of the U S Government

The Emancipation Proclamation

I grew up in the city of Detroit in the 1960s and ‘70s. As a white minority attending school at Detroit Public Schools, I learned a lot about – and developed a deep appreciation for – African-American history and culture. One of my earliest church choir memories was learning “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

While living in Detroit in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, “white flight,” and school bussing to other districts, I witnessed first-hand the struggles as well as the triumphs of racial issues. This developed in me an acute sensitivity for racial and ethnic harmony.

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Discovering Secrets of the Civil War this Summer at Henry Ford Museum

“With his horses killed, his men dead, and his supports overwhelmed and driven back, the enemy rushed upon the battery. Van Pelt, as the last act of his young life, drew his sword and sprang to the front of his pieces, with that inexplicable frenzy which supplies with strength as with courage, he cried with a voice of thunder, ‘Don’t dare touch these guns.’  Onward the inexorable wave of glistening bayonets surged, over and past him, burying him under his lost guns.”

- New York Herald newspaper, 1863

Civil War Weekend - Greenfield Village

Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln, General Custer. You probably learned all about these names in history class. But had you ever heard Lieutenant George Van Pelt’s story, or know why he defended the battle guns in the Loomis Battery right to the end of his life? He was willing to die for this battery because it was a source of pride for Michigan during the Civil War and in several key battles for the Union.

Hidden stories like these are a central part of Discovering the Civil War, the traveling exhibition on display this summer at Henry Ford Museum. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the war, and for the first time, this exhibit – which usually tours the country in three parts – has come together for the ultimate Civil War buff to dive into.
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