Independence on Tour: Rare copy of Declaration comes to Selma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Freedom has come to town.

The Declaration of Independence Road Trip slipped quietly into Selma Tuesday. The Road Trip consists of a multimedia exhibition featuring one of only 25 remaining original copies of the Declaration of Independence.

The copy will be on display at the Slavery and Civil War Museum today and Thursday. It is the only original copy currently on tour. More than half a million people have viewed the exhibit since it was launched in 2001.

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Jasculca said the copy on display is one of 200 Dunlap broadsides printed by John Dunlap of Philadelphia in July 1776.

Of those original 200 broadside copies, only 25 are known to have survived. Two of those copies are on display in England. The rest are housed in universities and museums here in America.

The Road Trip was launched by TV producer Norman Lear after he and his wife purchased the document at on online auction. His goal was to bring the &uot;People’s Document&uot; directly to the American people.

The exhibit attempts to place the Declaration of Independence into both historical and contemporary contexts, and consists of photographs, video clips and music. It opens with a video narrated by actress Reese Witherspoon, whose great, great-grandfather was one of the signees of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the actual document itself, the exhibit also includes a dramatic reading of the Declaration from within Independence Hall in Philadelphia by celebrities such as actors Mel Gibson and Morgan Freeman.

None of the Dunlap broadsides was signed. They represent the colonial-era equivalent of the fax. &uot;These are the copies that were rushed to the other colonies by horseback to let people know what had been done,&uot; Jasculca said.

The only signed copy is kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Because of the intrinsic value of the exhibit, elaborate security precautions are taken at each stop on the tour. Erik Stice, who accompanied the exhibit to Selma, has acted as the &uot;driver-slash-roadie&uot; for the Road Tour for nearly six months.

It has, he declared, been an emotional experience.

He added that the thousands who view the exhibit also find it to be a moving as well as an educational experience.

For Stice, the experience has changed his life in unexpected ways.

The Declaration of Independence Road Trip will be on display from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Thursday at the Slavery and Civil War Museum on Water Avenue. Tickets are $2 and include admission to The Middle Passage exhibit by artist Tom Feelings.