Library hosting 'Forever Free' exhibition

12:06:00 AM CDT - Thursday, May 03, 2007

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

A national touring exhibition about Abraham Lincoln's journey to abolish slavery will make a six-week stop at WSU. The WSU Libraries was one of 63 sites nationally and the only library in Kansas selected to host the exhibit, "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation," during this tour.

The exhibit will open Saturday, May 5, and run through June 15. Exhibition manager Nan Myers and other library staff have planned four events that will offer a perspective of what was happening in Kansas during America's struggle with slavery and abolition.

To provide a sense of the time, the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Civil War re-enactors will set up camp outside Ablah Library on opening day, May 5. They'll perform color guard duty during the opening reception and program, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Craig Miner, the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of History, will give the keynote address "First Pure, then Peaceable: Christianity, Slavery and Violence in Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1858." Miner's most recent research project involves examining how Kansas was being portrayed in the media during that time.

Wichitan Gerald Norwood, who has collected a number of historical African-American documents and artifacts, will present the program "In the Footsteps of Freedom: Tracing the Journeys of Freed Slaves" from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20.

A descendant of settlers of Nicodemus, Kan., Angela Bates will talk about "The African American Response to Emancipation: The Western Migration and Settlement" from 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2. Bates is the executive director of the Nicodemus Kansas Historical Society.

Nicodemus, located in northwest Kansas, is the only remaining community west of the Mississippi River that was settled by former slaves during the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War.

The last event will be the viewing and discussion of Kenneth Spurgeon's  "Touched by Fire: Bleeding Kansas" documentary, which will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 10. Spurgeon teaches at Cowley Community College and is the executive director of Lone Chimney Films, which produces historical films.

The 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry were re-enactors in the 80-minute film. Jay Price, associate professor and a member of Lone Chimney's board of directors, was one of the re-enactors and provided a voice-over line in the documentary.

The "Forever Free" exhibition consists of six sections of panels that include reproductions of rare historical documents from The Huntingdon Library and Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, who are co-sponsors of the exhibit. Engravings, period photographs and other material are part of the 75-foot-long display.

The exhibit, which started touring in September 2006 and runs through May 2010, is part of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial 2009 Commission.

Additional sponsors for the exhibit are the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In conjunction with the touring exhibit, a number of rare abolition and anti-slavery materials owned by WSU Libraries will be on display in the special collections department in the lower level of Ablah Library.

"Forever Free" can be viewed in the lobby of Ablah Library during its business hours from Saturday, May 5, through Friday, June 15. All related events, which are free and open to the public, will be held in Ablah Library. A venue change may be made for the June 2 program. Visit http://library.wichita.edu/foreverfree for library hours, tour arrangements and scheduled events.

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