Before the exhibit was open journalists had the chance to come and preview the exhibit “Undying Words 1858-1865 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (APLM). I took the opportunity to check it out and had the wonderful opportunity to interview James Cornelius, curator of the presidential library collection and Olivia Mahoney, senior curator at the Chicago History Museum for a story in the upcoming issue of Senior News & Times that will be out this February.
This exhibit focuses on five of Lincoln’s speeches the first beginning in 1858 and the last Lincoln’s final speech on Reconstruction that was given just three days before his assassination. The exhibit is on display until February 28, 2016 and is a partnership between the APLM and the Chicago History Museum with assistance from Archer Daniels Midland. I learned so many things at this exhibit that shows how Lincoln changed his feelings about slavery over time.
Our 16th President began as a political moderate with every intention of leaving the South alone and only objecting to slavery in expansion of the Western States. As the war drug on though and took its toll plus his own horrific loss of his son Willy, Lincoln’s message changed. In his inaugural speech he stated “Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property (slaves) and their peace, and personal security are to be endangered…. I declare that I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so….”
By the time Gettysburg had come he had a whole different take that required the south to rejoin the Union and abolish slavery. “His speech at Gettysburg reveals his change,” Mahoney said. “A lot has happened. They thought the War would be over sooner and the War has been larger, deadlier and costlier than he ever could imagine. Now he took action and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves. It was a radical move from a man who said he would keep slavery intact.”
The final focus is on Lincoln’s final speech on Reconstruction that was given just three days before his assassination. This is the speech focused on putting the nation back together and suggested a new future with biracial democracy. This speech so enraged John Wilkes Booth that it moved him to assassinate Lincoln at Ford’s theater. The exhibit ends with the bed where Lincoln dies after being shot by Booth.
“The exhibit focuses on the ideas of slavery, racial equality and cessation, these are the key issues,” Cornelius said.
Check out this exhibit for yourself, it is quite amazing the history in this display. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located at 212 North Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois 62701. Call (800) 610-2094 for information or visitoalplm.org. Pick up the February issue of Senior News & Times or subscribe. You can find out more about Senior News by logging onto http://www.seniornewsforil.net/.
Note the picture was provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.