Living history on display at Cincinnati Museum Center

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - An integral part of American history is now on display at a local museum.

The exhibit highlights a time when one half of America celebrated a new-found freedom from a tyrannical leader, while the other half remained shackled in slavery.

You can now check out a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence at the Cincinnati Museum Center. It's all a part of the "America I AM" exhibit. The print is one of only 26 known to exist.

"It was rushed out to the town people; put on trees, read in town squares to all the 13 colonies to tell people that we wanted to have our independence from Great Britain," said Ellene Miles, spokesperson for one of the organizing groups called Declare Yourself. "We wanted to be free. We wanted to be independent, and we wanted to forge our own way."

Miles said the document was printed the night of July 4th, 1776, and was purchased by television producer Norman Lear and his wife for $8.1 million in 2000. Lear wanted to bring "the people's document" directly to the American people. His youth voter registration organization, Declare Yourself, partnered with the award-winning American I AM exhibit.

On Saturday morning, journalist Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Dr. Cornell West welcomed the print to his new temporary home.

"'America I AM' is about the history of all Americans," said Douglass W. McDonald, President of the Cincinnati Museum Center. "I think the Declaration of Independence galvanizes that whole story. That it's about the African-American imprint, but it's all of our stories"

The document was placed in the exhibit's "the Measure of Justice" gallery, next to a bill of sale of a woman and child.

"It's an interesting juxtaposition," said Miles. "Between the Declaration of Independence, right next to it is a bill of sale for a Negro woman and her child. This exhibit is really a testament to the fact that history has its own way of righting itself over time."

The document will be on display through October 2, 2010.

The America I AM exhibit is on display through January 2, 2011.

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