The Collegian
Sunday, June 04, 2023

Ayers Emancipation discussion to air on C-SPAN3

A discussion led by President Edward Ayers that was meant to restore a sense of the drama and importance to the Emancipation Proclamation, he said, will air on C-SPAN3 on Oct. 27 and 28.

"There's no national holiday for Emancipation and it's gotten a little bit buried," Ayers said. "People don't know exactly how it was that slavery came to an end. What we're going to do is really recreate the scene of September 1862."

The discussion was taped in September, but will air on C-SPAN3 at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Oct. 27 and at 11 a.m. on Oct. 28. It will explore the perspectives of different groups within the U.S. population, including freed slaves and President Lincoln, said Courtney Chapin, the White House liaison for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The program will include historians from the American Civil War Center, Duke University, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia.

The actual discussion was held at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington D.C., but it was streamed and viewed at over 60 watch parties across the nation. The University of Richmond Center for Civic Engagement showed the program in the Tyler Haynes Commons.

The discussion was sponsored by the NEH, a federally funded agency devoted to giving grants to promote and preserve the humanities, The History Channel and the Smithsonian.

Ayers became involved with the NEH when he served on the National Council on the Humanities from 2000 to 2004. He then testified on behalf of the NEH before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations as part of renewing their federal funding. He was chosen to speak on behalf of the NEH because he is a compelling and dynamic public speaker, Chapin said.

The idea for this event came directly from Ayers, Chapin said. After his testimonial, he reminded her of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and suggested they plan an event.

The NEH chose to hold the event on Constitution Day, which is a day when all federally-funded educational institutions are required to study the U.S. Constitution. This observance was established by Congress in 2004. The Emancipation Proclamation program will provide schools with a discussion related to the Constitution, Chapin said.

The program also included a contest for students age 18 and older to submit original works based on primary documents found in NEH-funded digital projects, including "Visualizing Emancipation," which was a project built at the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond.

"The idea is to get young students to look at primary documents and think about the people involved," Chapin said.

The contest winners will receive cash prizes, a two-night trip to Washington D.C. and a specially guided tour of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Chapin said.

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Ayers said the benefit in participating in the contest was to gain a deeper understanding of emancipation than they could in any other way.

"I think all people in the world need to understand this; world history turned on the events that happened here around us," Ayers said. "No matter where you're from, if you're one of the [students] from 70 different countries, in the course of world history, Richmond matters."

Contact reporter Chrissy Wengloski at

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