Artifact: The Thirteenth Amendment

More than 150 years after it abolished slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment finds safe passage to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
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There are roughly a dozen original copies of the U.S. Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment still in existence. So how did March Madness assist in the Freedom Center landing one? “David Rubenstein, who owns the document, is close friends with NURFC president Dr. C.G. Newsome, and both are on the Duke University board,” says Richard Cooper, director of museum experiences. “It was at the National Championship that Rubenstein finally told Newsome, ‘I’m ready for the Amendment to come to Cincinnati.’ ”

The document—on display through June of this year—measures approximately 15 1/16 inches by 20 inches—and is on the type of lined paper “you use in kindergarten,” says Cooper.

Click for high-resolution display
Click image for high-resolution display.

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax originally owned this handwritten copy of the 1863 document. It now belongs to David Rubenstein, the well-known historical philanthropist who recently paid for the repairs to the Washington Monument. The delicate nature of the document requires temperature and light control while on display, including daily checks on humidity levels. “We keep it at the equivalent of three candles-worth of light, with the rest of the room as dark as possible,” says Cooper. For security reasons, the document was transported in an unmarked vehicle that couldn’t even stop for gas. Its arrival and departure dates to and from the Freedom Center are deliberately kept under wraps.

now thru July 30, 1a.m.–5p.m., National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 E. Freedom Way, downtown, (513) 333–7500, freedomcenter.org

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