Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation

image “Forever Free” was a traveling exhibition that reexamined President Lincoln’s efforts toward the abolition of slavery during the Civil War. Organized by The Huntington’s John Rhodehamel, Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts, the exhibit consisted of reproductions of rare historical documents from The Huntington’s collections and those of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and drew on the latest scholarship in the field.

Each exhibit copy consisted of six sections of panels running 75 feet in length. Each panel contained reproductions of rare historical documents, period photographs, and illustrative material, such as engravings, lithographs, cartoons, and political ephemera. The sections of the exhibition focused on young Lincoln’s America, the House dividing, war for the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation, the role of black soldiers in the Civil War, and the final months of the Civil War and Lincoln’s life. Two copies of the exhibit traveled to 40 libraries around the country between September 2003 and February 2006.

Thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission external link, the exhibition tour was extended, with two additional copies of the exhibit traveling to a total of 63 libraries from September 2006 through May 2010.

Libraries selected for the tour hosted the exhibition for a six-week period. Participating libraries were expected to present at least one program for library patrons and community members that featured a lecture/discussion by a scholar on exhibition themes. All showings of the exhibition were free and open to the public.

“Forever Free” was organized by The Huntington Library external link and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History external link in cooperation with the ALA Public Programs Office and funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities external link (NEH).

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