Penn State Harrisburg Library to host 'Forever Free' Lincoln exhibit

October 25, 2010

Why did a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality tolerate for so long one of the harshest labor systems the world has known? A new traveling exhibition opening at the Penn State Harrisburg Library Thursday, Oct. 28, traces Abraham Lincoln's gradual transformation from an antislavery moderate into the "The Great Emancipator," who freed all slaves with a revolutionary war-time proclamation in 1863. "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation" will be on display until Dec. 10.

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 (ALA), this traveling exhibition is made possible through major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, created by Congress and charged with planning the national celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

“We are pleased to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Gregory Crawford, director of the library. “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 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.”

Abraham Lincoln was an obscure Illinois lawyer and politician of humble origins who rose in an astonishingly short time to be world renowned 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 also was 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. Lincoln’s 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.

The library will offer free public programs in connection with the exhibition:

Mr. Lincoln will welcome visitors at an Opening Reception for the exhibit at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.  James Getty, a respected Lincoln actor and historian, will spin well-known stories of Lincoln’s youth, give recollections of his personal and political life, and recount the special anguish of Gettysburg.

A symposium on Lincoln will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11. Two faculty from Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Humanities, Charles Kupfer, associate professor of American studies and history, and David Witwer, associate professor of American studies and history, along with Frank Goodyear, associate curator of photographs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, will discuss Lincoln and his time.

For details, call 717-948-6079, or visit the library website.


  • One of the last photographs of Abraham Lincoln from life

    IMAGE: Alexander Gardner

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010