drawing of Abraham Lincoln

Exhibited at the NYS Library in 2010:

Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation

Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation was on display at the New York State Library between September 3 and October 14, 2010. The exhibit, which re-examined President Lincoln's thoughts about slavery, was set up in six panels that 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.

Included in the exhibition were rare documents and the latest research that that took viewers through Lincoln's journey to Emancipation: he was at first a cautious moderate who was willing to allow slavery to continue if it would help preserve the Union, but when this approach failed, he became determined that freeing the slaves immediately was necessary and thus issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

In conjunction with "Forever Free" exhibit, the State Library also displayed a selection of rare documents and images telling some of the history behind the manuscript Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which has been a part of the Library's collections since 1865.  The documents on display tell how the rare manuscript was raffled off in 1864, at a "sanitary fair" in Albany, to raise money for medical care for Union soldiers.

On display were photographs of the sanitary fair, an actual raffle ticket and other rarities, as well as pamphlets, sheet music and cartoons depicting public reactions to the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Teacher Resources

Photo showing the first three panels of the exhibit in the NYS Library.
The Forever Free exhibit while on display on the seventh floor of the New York State Library in the fall of 2010.

Programs That Took Place During the Exhibit
Date Time Location Event
September 3 9 a.m. 7th floor Exhibit Opens
September 5 2 - 6:30 p.m. Huxley Theater Civil War/John Brown
  • Song Cycle (Magpie)
  • John Brown presentation (Amy Godine)
  • John Brown play - "Sword of the Spirit" (Magpie)
September 8 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Librarians Room Reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibit
September 8 12:15 - 1:15 p.m. Huxley Theater, Museum NYS in the Civil War - A program presented by Bob Mulligan.
September 14 7-8 p.m. Huxley Theater

Panel Discussion - Historical perspectives on Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, with panelists Allen Ballard (University at Albany), Amy Murrell Taylor (University at Albany) and Bruce Eelman (Siena College). Moderated by Assemblymember Jack McEneny

September 19 10 a.m. -
5 p.m.
Huxley Theater

Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on display

September 23 12:15 - 1:15 p.m. Huxley Theater Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War - a program presented by Scott Christianson.
September 29 12:15-1:15 p.m. Librarians Room Black Soldiers in the Civil War and Genealogical Records - a program presented by Harry B. Matthews
October 2 1:00 p.m. Huxley Theater Civil War Records at the New York State Library and New York State Archives
October 7 12:15 - 1:15 p.m. Huxley Theater Father Abraham's Boys: When We Sent Our Children to War - a program presented by Michael Aikey
October 10 12 - 4:30 p.m. Huxley Theater Movie screening:
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois
  • Amistad
October 14 5 p.m. 7th floor Exhibit closes


"Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation" has been organized by the Huntington Library and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. This exhibition was made possible by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Lincoln Bicentennial, 1809-2009: Live the LegacyAmerican Libraries AssociationGilder-Lehrman Institute of American HistoryNational Endowment for the humanitiesHuntington Library
Last Updated: February 19, 2014