The Emancipation Proclamation will stay on display through New Year's Day at the National Archives in Washington, giving the public a rare opportunity to see the document on its 150th anniversary.
President Abraham Lincoln's decree ultimately led to the freedom of more than 3 million slaves.
“It ranks with the Declaration of Independence as one of the great documents in U.S. history," National Archives senior archivist and African-American records specialist Reginald Washington said.
The original Emancipation Proclamation is preserved at the National Archives.
The public can see two of the five original pages. Facsimile pages will join page two and page five -- page five bears the official seal of the United States and the signature of Abraham Lincoln.
"[The Emancipation Proclamation] was a military measure,” said Howard University history professor Edna Greene Medford. Medford has written extensively about the document. “Lincoln did not do this for humanitarian reasons. He did it because he was Commander-in-Chief."
Medford said that Lincoln's main goal with the decree was to preserve the union and throw the South into chaos.
"The South's advantage was in its enslaved laborers," Medford said. "So if you free them, if you tell them -- you don't have to stay there, you can go and we will protect you -- then you've pretty much won the war."
It also committed the nation to the idea of equality for all. Equality is a fight that continues, and the reason that thousands will likely visit the National Archives on this anniversary.
The light in the archives was purposely dimmed for the three-day exhibition. Over the generations, the paper has become discolored and the ink has faded.
"Our strategy is to limit the amount of light exposure,” said National Archives Conservation Lab Deputy Director Kitty Nicholson. “That means to limit the length of time it's on display and also to keep the light levels low."
The Emancipation Proclamation will be on display at the National Archives on Pennsylvania Ave NW Monday and New Year's Day.
For times and a look at the scheduled events, visit: http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2013/nr13-20.html