Lincoln exhibit and conference set at Linfield
The exhibit, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” will open Wednesday, April 2, in Nicholson Library.
Featuring numerous photographs and examples of 19th century documents, the exhibit explores how Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the war — the secession of Southern states, slavery and the needs of the country vs. individual rights.
According to the exhibit, Lincoln believed that state secession was unconstitutional and undemocratic. At his inauguration, he reminded citizens that he had taken a solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution — a statement Southerners considered a declaration of war.
Slavery was the key issue of the war. And while Lincoln is known for emancipating the slaves, he came to the decision gradually.
Initially, he shared many of the racial prejudices of his day, the exhibit says. And for many years, he favored gradual, compensated abolition of slavery followed by dispatch of the freed slaves to colonize territory in South America or Africa.
Visitors to the “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” can ask themselves some of the same questions Lincoln asked in the early 1860s. Examples include: Is the United States really one nation, or a collection of separate states? And how does the concept of slavery fit with the ideal of all men being created equal?
And like Lincoln, they can look at the Constitution to develop answers.
At the end of the display, they’ll find a question only for modern-day viewers: Are today’s U.S. citizens being faithful to Lincoln’s visions?
During the exhibit’s six-week run, several related programs are planned, including lectures by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Leon Litwack on Thursday, April 3, and Lincoln biographer Ron White on Tuesday, April 15.
The conference itself, “The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln,” will run May 8-10 in the library. Seven scholars will speak about Lincoln, the Civil War and the political thought of that era. The speakers and their topics include:
n William B. Allen, professor of political science at Michigan State University and editor of “The Essential Antifederalist,” who will present “To Preserve, Protect and Defend: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.”
n John Burt, professor of English at Brandeis University and author of “Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism,” with “Prosperity and Tyranny in Lincoln’s Lyceum Address.”
n Allen Guelzo, professor of history at Gettysburg College and author of “Gettsyburg,” with “Four Roads to Emancipation.”
n Dorothy Ross, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Origins of American Social Science,” with “Lincoln and the Ethics of Emancipation.”
n Manisha Sinha, professor of Afro-American studies at University of Massachusetts and author of “To Live and Die in the Holy Cause: Abolition and the Origins of America’s Interracial Democracy,” with “Lincoln’s Competing Political Ideals: The Union, Constitution, and Antislavery.”
n John Stauffer, professor of English and American literature and Afro-American studies at Harvard University and author of “Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln,” with “Lincoln, Sumner and Shakespeare.”
n Michael Zuckert, professor of political science at University of Notre Dame and author of “Completing the Constitution: The Post-Civil War Amendments,” will present “Lincoln and the American Amalgam.”
In preparation for the conference, the Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice will sponsor an undergraduate reading group on Lincoln’s speeches and a persuasive speaking competition related to the themes of the exhibit and the conference. In addition, the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” will be shown on campus.
Both the conference and the Lincoln exhibit realted to Linfield’s overall focus for 2013-14, “Legacies of War.” Each year, Linfield chooses a focus for a campus-wide discussion as part of its Program for the Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement.
“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” is based on an exhibit of the same name that opened at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2005. The traveling version for McMinnville was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office and made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The conference is being sponsored jointly by Nicholson Library and the Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice. For more information, contact Susan Barnes Whyte, director of Linfield Libraries at 503-883-2517.