June 16--The amendment granting all Americans' freedom will be in Kinston on Juneteenth weekend.
North Carolina's original copy of the 13th Amendment, freeing the slaves, will be at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The copy has already been showcased in Edenton, Creswell, Weaverville, Sedalia and Durham. After Kinston has the document on display, New Bern will showcase it in Tryon Palace on June 28 before the amendment is taken back to Raleigh.
Juneteenth, which is June 19, 1865, signifies the day the last African-Americans found out slavery had ended, although the amendment was passed by Congress Jan. 31, 1865.
Dr. Malcolm Beech, president of Kinston'sCultural Heritage Museum and the U.S. Colored Troops Living History Association, said the amendment is extremely vital to American history.
"The 13th Amendment is what actually freed the slaves," Beech said. "Prior to the law passing, slavery was legal and people had the rights to other people. The Civil War was the most significant event of African history, with the results bringing an end to slavery. Before the Civil War, there were 4 million slaves and zero after the war."
The U.S. Colored Troops Living History Association will also have a reenactment group, representing the 33 African-American soldiers from Lenoir County who fought in the Union Army.
Beech said the event is also significant because it's the first one at the museum where most of the presenters are from the African-American community.
"There has been a feeling of separateness between Kinston's African-American community and this museum," Beech said. "We're confirming the fact this museum is open to everyone in the community, and with the exhibit in the museum, we'll play a role in interpreting African-American participation in the Civil War.
"This is not just a Confederate museum. We're getting everyone's history in -- Union and Confederate. This is a significant asset in tourism, and the community as a whole needs to be a part by supporting and benefiting from it. It can draw economic development to Kinston and a better quality of life."
John Marston, president of the Neuse Gunboat Association, said North Carolina's copy of the 13th Amendment -- which is originally in Raleigh -- is something the community needs to view because of the limited amounts of locations it will see.
"This is a big coup for Kinston," Marston said. "The 13th Amendment changed the character of the United States of America forever. It freed the slaves and gave rights to all citizens. Everyone should come out, see the event and take a look at the document."
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Junious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.
Breakout box: For more information about the United States Colored Troops Living History Association, go to usctlha.com.
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