Abraham Lincoln’s Historic Emancipation Proclamation Turns 150

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was the first major step in the end of slavery, will celebrate its 150th anniversary on January 1, 2013.

In 1862, 100 days before the proclamation, Lincoln had warned the nation that he would issue a final order declaring all slaves to be free in Southern states rebelling against the Union. The order was issued on January 1, 1863, and was based on Lincoln’s constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces, and was not a Congressional measure. Slavery was officially ended with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865.

The original document will go on display for a few days in Washington to mark the occasion, reports MSN.

This tradition, known as “Watch Night,” began on December 31, 1862, with many black church congregations waiting on the Emancipation Proclamation to be announced and to go into effect amid the ongoing conflict known as the Civil War.

This year, the tradition will follow the original document to the National Archives, with a special midnight display with planned readings, songs, and a bell that will ring for one of the nation’s most important documents.

The official Emancipation Proclamation, which bears Lincoln’s own signature and the United States seal, will appear at the National Archives Building on Sunday through January 1. The document is rarely displayed, and only for a limited time each year because of its fragility and sensitivity to light, reports ABC.

“We will be calling back to an old tradition,” said US Archivist David Ferriero. “When you see thousands of people waiting in line in the dark and cold … we know that they’re not there just for words on paper.”

“On this 150th anniversary, we recall those who struggled with slavery in this country, the hope that sustained them and the inspiration the Emancipation Proclamation has given to those who seek justice,” he said.

Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to make permanent the Emancipation Proclamation with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is portrayed with some artistic liberty in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed 2012 biopic Lincoln.