A day before Abraham Lincoln's 203rd birthday, a handful of Tennessee middle-schoolers got the opportunity of a lifetime to view a special piece of American history.
The Emancipation Proclamation led to the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery, and beginning Tuesday, both of those original historic documents are on display at the Tennessee State Museum.
Nashville is the only city in the Southeast on the "Discovering the Civil War" tour from Washington's National Archives.
A gathering at the downtown museum Monday showed how the 150-year-old history still touches young students today. A statewide contest had Tennessee children put their own pens to paper and weigh-in on the weight of the Emancipation Proclamation's visit to Nashville.
Kaitlin Davis, a seventh grader from Christiana, responded to a young slave's letter with words from the future.
"Now, in the 21st Century, all people are created equal," she said, reading her letter. "Yes, it took lot of trouble to get this world of all men created equal, but it was truly worth it."
Her words were designed to comfort the downtrodden in a worthy cause.
"And so I wanted to feel like I was having a conversation, a heartfelt conversation," Davis said.
The contest winners were first in line to see the proclamation. While the words are now faded and fuzzy, they still ring freedom.
"You just can't get any closer to history. You can't get any closer to smelling the smoke of the Civil War or feeling the power of what that war defined for America," said museum director Lois Riggins-Ezell.
The original Emancipation Proclamation is on display in Nashville for a total of 72 hours in timeslots spread out over seven days.
The museum has sold out for reservations to see the document, but it will still accommodate a limited number of walk-in visitors each day.
The "Discovering the Civil War" exhibit remains on display through Sept. 1. For more information, visit http://www.tnmuseum.org/.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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