This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Emancipation journey

Lincoln’s road to proclamation focus of exhibition in UGL

Published: March 3, 2005

Reporter Editor

The events and ideas that led Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation are the focus of a national traveling exhibition, "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation," that went on display yesterday in the Reference Room of the Undergraduate Library in Capen Hall, North Campus.


This photograph of Abraham Lincoln, one of the last of the president, was taken by Alexander Gardner in the spring of 1865. It is part of the "Forever Free" exhibit on view in the Undergraduate Library.

The University Libraries will celebrate the exhibition, organized by the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, in cooperation with the American Library Association, with a series of lectures, readings and special events, all free of charge and open to the public.

"Forever Free," which is on view through April 15, is being funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The exhibition examines how Lincoln's beliefs about ending slavery were transformed by war-time developments. From the beginning of the Civil War until his death, Lincoln evolved from a cautious moderate who was willing to see slavery continue in order to preserve the Union to the "Great Emancipator" who put an end to slavery in the United States by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibition explores the reasons for this change in attitude.

It consists of 75 feet of exhibit panels containing reproductions of rare historical documents, period photographs and illustrative material, such as engravings, lithographs, cartoons and political ephemera. It features material on Lincoln's life and thoughts, sectional differences and stresses, slavery, racial attitudes, the Civil War and the role of African-American troops in the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

The exhibition officially will open with a reception from 4:30-6 p.m. tomorrow in the lobby of the Undergraduate Library. Members of the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Re-enactment Regiment will appear. A musical trio comprised of Steve Pevo, Keith Woodin and Jean Dickson, associate librarian in Lockwood Library, will perform Civil War-era songs on a fretless banjo, fiddle, guitar, concertina and mandolin.

Barbara J. Fields, professor of history at Columbia University, will deliver the exhibition's keynote speech at 7 p.m., March 24 in the Screening Room in the Center for the Arts, North Campus. Fields' topic will be "The Stakes of Emancipation."

Other featured events:

  • Lecture: "The Life of the Civil War Soldier," David Bertuca, president and commanding officer of the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Re-enactment Regiment and associate librarian, General Libraries Access Services, UB Libraries, 7 p.m., Monday, Friends Room, Lockwood Library.

  • Lecture: "Rev. John William Dungy, 1833-1903," Peggy Brooks-Bertram, adjunct assistant professor, Department of African American Studies, noon, March 30, Special Collections Research Room, 420 Capen Hall.

  • Lecture: "What's Gender Got to Do With It? New York in the Age of the Civil War," Lillian S. Williams, associate professor and chair, Department of African American Studies, noon, April 8, Friends Room, Lockwood Library.

  • Book talk: "Where I'm Bound: A Novel About a Black Cavalryman in the Union Army, His Family and Slavery's End," Allen B. Ballard, professor of Africana studies and history, University at Albany, 3 p.m., April 13, Special Collections Research Room, 420 Capen.

Ballard also will give a reading from "Where I'm Bound" at 7 p.m., April 13 at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court, Buffalo. The gospel choir Joshua's Generation will perform.

For more information about the exhibition or special events, visit the exhibition's Web site at