March 18, 2021
A giant, marble tablet engraved with the words of the First Amendment will be displayed at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, towering above Independence Mall in the museum's second floor atrium.
The 50-ton tablet, made of Tennessee pink marble, was engraved, fabricated and erected in 2007 at the former Newseum in Washington, D.C. The museum, founded by the Freedom Forum and dedicated to the five freedoms of the First Amendment, closed in 2019 amid financial struggles.
Though the former D.C. property was sold to Johns Hopkins University, the tablet remained under the ownership of the Freedom Forum, which continues to seek a new location for the Newseum.
With no other place to put the tablet, the Freedom Forum decided to donate it to the National Constitution Center as a gift.
“We are thrilled to bring this heroic marble tablet of the First Amendment to the National Constitution Center, to inspire visitors from across America and around the world for generations to come,” said National Constitution Center president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen. “It’s so meaningful to bring the text of the First Amendment to Philadelphia, in a majestic space overlooking Independence Hall, where the original Constitution was drafted, as a permanent monument to the five freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.”
The text of the First Amendment reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Work to remove the tablet from its original location has already begun. Over a period of several months, the tablet will be reconfigured and placed along a 100-foot-wide wall on the National Constitution Center’s Grand Hall Overlook.
A dedication ceremony for the tablet is expected to take place in fall 2021, and it will be part of a programming series on the First Amendment.
“It was important to us to find a location for the tablet where it could be on public display, and where millions of Americans could continue to expand their understanding of and appreciation for our First Amendment freedoms,” said Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum, who recently joined the National Constitution Center Board of Trustees. “We are incredibly pleased that the tablet will have a prominent new home at the National Constitution Center where it can be part of their efforts to increase awareness and understanding of the Constitution.”
The National Constitution Center reopened on Presidents Day weekend and currently features an exhibit on Article II of the Constitution, which spells out the responsibilities of the executive branch, including the president, vice president and Cabinet.