September 27, 2012
More than 1,000 area middle and high school students are registered for docented tours
"Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War," a national traveling exhibition, will open at UNC Asheville's Ramsey Library on October 15. The exhibit examines how President Lincoln viewed the Constitution as applied to three intertwined crises of the Civil War—the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.
Local elements, including diaries, portraits, and slave deeds showing how slavery and emancipation impacted Western North Carolina, have been added to the exhibit for its stay at UNC Asheville. The exhibit is free and will be open to the public whenever Ramsey Library is open, through November 16.
An opening reception for the exhibition will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. Monday, October 15, at Ramsey Library. At 7 p.m. UNC Asheville Visiting Assistant Professor of History Darin Waters will present a lecture, "Emancipation: A Crime Against Humanity," in Humanities Lecture Hall on the campus.
The National Touring Exhibition
Abraham Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of America's greatest presidents, but his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator? This exhibition provides no easy answers. Rather, it encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with Lincoln's struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality. This exhibition develops a more complete understanding of Abraham Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation's gravest constitutional crisis.
Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, at a time when the nation was on the brink of war. Lincoln struggled to resolve the basic questions that divided Americans at the most perilous moment in the nation's history: Was the United States truly one nation, or was it a confederacy of sovereign and separate states? How could a country founded on the belief that "all men are created equal" tolerate slavery? In a national crisis, would civil liberties be secure? President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three crises of war, ultimately reinventing the Constitution and the promise of American life.
The National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It features informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln's first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.
Local Elements are Added
This local exhibition of "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" also includes a look at how slavery and the emancipation impacted this region with eyewitness testimony of slaves, slave owners, soldiers, and abolitionists. Drawing on the resources of the Buncombe County Register of Deeds and the Clerk of Courts, original slave deeds and wills will be on display along with a variety of diaries, letters, maps, and portraits that add to the understanding of the lived experience of people during this time period.
"My office has had the privilege to collaborate on the Lincoln exhibit project, bringing original artifacts to the students of UNC Asheville and our community," said Drew Reisinger, Register of Deed. "In an effort to bring light to this issue, the Buncombe County Register of Deeds has also compiled a database of the documents that recorded the trade of people as slaves, available at at www.buncombecounty.org/rod."
In addition to UNC Asheville students and members of the public who will view the exhibition, more than 1,000 middle and high school students are registered to attend. "We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition," said Leah Dunn, UNC Asheville University Librarian. "This exhibition shows how Lincoln struggled with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties—all questions that our country's founding charter left unanswered. We are particularly pleased to host school middle and high school students on the campus of UNC Asheville. Undoubtedly the exhibit will help them understand why Lincoln's struggle with the Constitution still matters today."
Special Events Linked to the Exhibition
Programs related to this exhibit, all taking place on the UNC Asheville campus, all free and open to the public, include:
- October 15, 5:30-7 p.m. opening reception, Ramsey Library.
- October 15, 7 p.m. at Ramsey Library, lecture by UNC Asheville Visiting Assistant Professor of History Darin Waters, "Emancipation: A Crime Against Humanity," location has been changed to Ramsey Library.
- October 18, 12:30-1:30 p.m., lecture by Gordon McKinney retired professor of history at Berea College, "Wilma Dykeman's 'The Tall Woman', Lincoln and the Civil War," Ramsey Library Special Collections Room.
- October 25, 6-9 p.m., workshop by genealogical researcher Sasha Mitchell on finding ancestors of African Americans prior to 1865, in Ramsey Library Whitman Room. Registration is limited to the first 35 respondents to firstname.lastname@example.org. An additional workshop will be planned if needed.
- October 30, 12:20-1:30 p.m., Highsmith Student Union Mountain Suites, genealogical researcher Sasha Mitchell shares her experience of researching her own roots, Highsmith University Union Mountain Suites.
For more information contact: Ramsey Library, 828.251.6336 or email@example.com; Deborah Miles, executive director, Center for Diversity Education, 828.232.5024 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Ramsey Library hours are posted online. For more information about the national touring exhibition, "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War," visit the American Library Association website.