Why did a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality tolerate for so long one of the harshest and most unjust labor systems the world has known?
A new traveling exhibition opening at Jackson Library on Jan. 25 looks for answers to this question by tracing Abraham Lincoln’s gradual transformation from an antislavery moderate into “The Great Emancipator,” who freed slaves in the rebel states with a revolutionary war-time proclamation in 1863. “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation,” featuring reproductions of rare historical documents, will be on display at the library until March 5.
Organized by the Huntington Library and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in cooperation with the American Library Association, this traveling exhibition is made possible through major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Locally, this project is made possible in part by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and through the support of the Friends of the UNCG Libraries, the N.C. Civil War Roundtable and the UNCG History Club.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the University Libraries are bringing several speakers to campus:
7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26 – Dr. Loren Schweninger, UNCG Department of History, “Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the End of Slavery.” Virginia Dare Room, Alumni House.
3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27 – Former Senator George McGovern will sign copies of his 2009 book, “Lincoln,” and discuss what drew him to the subject. Reception immediately following. Jackson Library Reading Room.
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 – Dr. Thomas Brown, University of South Carolina Department of History, “The Civil War in Modern Eyes.” Virginia Dare Room, Alumni House.
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 – Dr. Paul Finkelman, Albany School of Law, “Did Abe Lincoln Really Free the Slaves?” Virginia Dare Room, Alumni House.
7 p.m. Thursday, March 4 – Dr. Heather Williams, UNC Chapel Hill Department of History, “Help Me to Find My People: Searching for Family After Slavery Ended.” Virginia Dare Room, Alumni House.
“We are pleased to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Dean Rosann Bazirjian (University Libraries). “The Civil War and slavery are topics which must constantly be revisited in order to help 21st century Americans better understand their causes and more clearly see how their effects are still with us today.
“This exhibit offers our campus and our community an opportunity to learn more about how Abraham Lincoln decided upon emancipation of the slaves, even as he tried to hold together a fragile coalition of states in order to preserve the Union. It is a revealing insight into the values, principles and ideals that guided one of our greatest presidents.”
In addition to the events at the University Libraries, free programs are being sponsored by the Greensboro Public Library and the Greensboro Historical Museum in connection with the exhibition. For more information, contact Kimberly Lutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit http://library.uncg.edu/depts/admin/lincoln/ for a list of all of the events in the series.
Abraham Lincoln was an obscure Illinois lawyer and politician of humble origins who rose in an astonishingly short time to world renown as the leader of a young nation during one of its most troubled times. Throughout his life, Lincoln’s dedication to the ideals of freedom and equality for all people did not waver. “I want every man to have the chance – and I believe a black man is entitled to it – in which he can better his condition,” he said early in his political career.
Lincoln was also a pragmatic politician who believed that a direct attack on slavery in the South would split the Union and end America’s experiment in self-government. He steered a middle course during the early years of the Civil War but became convinced that ending slavery would help the Union militarily. His Emancipation Proclamation transformed the character of the war by re-committing the nation to its founders’ vision of freedom and equality for all people.
“Forever Free” draws upon original documents in the collections of the Huntington Library and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It was curated by John Rhodehamel, Norris Foundation Curator of American historical manuscripts at the Huntington Library.