Traveling National Exhibition on Lincoln Makes Six-Week Stop at Lawrence University

A traveling exhibition examining President Lincoln’s efforts toward the abolition of slavery during the Civil War will make its only appearance in Wisconsin during a six-week stay in Lawrence University’s Seeley G. Mudd Library.

Lawrence, one of only 40 sites in the country the exhibition will visit, hosts “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation” Jan. 21, 2004 – March 5. The exhibition will be located on the south end of the library’s second floor.

Displayed on two 75-foot-long sectioned panels, the exhibition features reproductions of rare historical documents, period photographs and illustrative material, including engravings, lithographs, cartoons and miscellaneous political items.

The exhibition is divided into distinct sections starting with young Lincoln’s America in the early 19th century. Covering the next 30 years, it also chronicles the spread of slavery into the western territories, the war to preserve the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation, the role of black soldiers in the Civil War and the final months of Lincoln’s life. Enhancing the exhibition will be a display of collections from Lawrence’s own Lincoln Reading Room.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Lawrence is sponsoring a series of public lectures, highlighted by an opening address by noted historian and author Ronald C. White, Jr.

Based on his best-selling 2002 book of the same name, White will present “Lincoln’s Greatest Speech,” Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center auditorium. A professor of American intellectual and religious history at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, White has drawn critical praise for his book, which takes Lincoln’s brief — it was only 701 words in length — second inaugural address of 1865 and places the remarks in historical context, demonstrating how Lincoln attempted to shape public sentiment through the power of eloquent and carefully calculated rhetoric.

In addition to White’s address, two other public lectures will be conducted during the exhibition’s stay. Lawrence University associate professor of history Jerald Podair will present “Back Door to Freedom: The Paradoxes of the Emancipation Proclamation” Feb. 3, 2004 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wriston auditorium. Lawrence assistant professor of English Faith Barrett will deliver the address “Drums Off the Phantom Battlement: American Poets and the Civil War,” Feb. 10, 2004 at 4 p.m. in the Wriston auditorium.

In collaboration with the Appleton Public Library, a series of book discussions, led by Lawrence faculty members, also will be held while the exhibition is here. The schedule includes: Jan. 28, James McPherson’s “Ordeal by Fire,” led by historian Rex Myers; Feb. 18, Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” led by assistant professor of history Monica Rico; and March 10, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” led by Susan Richards, director of the Lawrence library. All three programs will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Appleton Public Library’s lower level.

“We are certainly excited about the many opportunities the ‘Forever Free’ exhibit provides, both for our students and the community at large,” said Richards. “Through the format of a traveling exhibit, we are able to support teaching and learning in a way we typically haven’t done before while also enabling us to showcase some of the outstanding books and documents in our own Lincoln Reading Room.

“We hope that the topic itself, Abraham Lincoln’s own struggle to come to terms with the abolition of slavery, will entice interested members of the community to visit the Lawrence library, see this high-quality exhibit and hear some excellent speakers. It has been fun working with the Appleton Public Library on this project as well and we look forward to joining forces with them again to provide the Fox Cites with other unique opportunities like this in the future.”

The exhibition itself and all other lectures and events associated with it, are all free and open to the public.

The “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation” exhibition has been organized by the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif., and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, New York City, in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The exhibition was been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, promoting excellence in the humanities.