Laura Lee or Becky Webb, Fort Delaware State Park, 302-834-7941; or Necia Beck, Delaware State Parks, 302-739-9175 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fort Delaware State Park hosts new “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” traveling exhibition
DELAWARE CITY (June 22, 2012) – “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” a traveling exhibition opening at Fort Delaware State Park on Saturday, June 23, examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War — the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.
The exhibition opens Saturday with a noon cannon salute to Mr. Lincoln, in remembrance of a similar salute performed at Fort Delaware in 1865 at the time of his death. This is followed by “What They Said,” a program by Park Historian Laura Lee that details the comments and thoughts from men on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line regarding President Lincoln and his impact on the fort turned prison camp.
Although widely acknowledged as one of America’s greatest presidents, Lincoln’s 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.
Abraham 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.
“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Lee, who serves as lead interpreter at the park. “As a new president, Abraham Lincoln was faced with enormous challenges. This exhibition shows how Lincoln struggled with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties—all questions our country’s founding charter left unanswered. Each section of the exhibit features information about a different aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. For example, the section about slavery examines the various policy options Lincoln once embraced and how his thoughts about slavery evolved over time. Most importantly, the exhibit helps visitors understand why Lincoln’s struggle with the Constitution still matters today.”
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 (NEH): great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.
The traveling exhibition is composed of informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.
Fort Delaware is sponsoring the following free programs for the public in connection with the exhibition:
“What They Said”
Format: 30-minute presentation
Dates: Saturday June 23, 2012, 12:30 p.m. and Saturday July 28, 2012, 12:30 p.m.
Program description: Park historian Laura Lee has delved into primary research material from Fort Delaware and extracted comments and thoughts from men on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line regarding President Lincoln. The program reveals what people on the island were thinking and saying about Lincoln, and what his impact was on the fort turned prison camp. This presentation was previously presented to the Lincoln Club of Delaware in November 2011.
“Mary Todd Lincoln”
Format: Living history program, ongoing all day
Date: July 14 and 15, 2012
Program description: Living historian Judi Cox appears in the persona of Mary Todd Lincoln, accompanied by an assistant portraying Elmer Elsworth Hager, Mary's bodyguard for the day. Cox’s presentation is based on historical research into Mrs. Lincoln’s life as the First Lady, and of the women who influenced her throughout her lifetime. Ms. Cox will also display mourning attire and speak about the mourning period during the Civil War between her presentations.
“With Malice Towards None: Abraham Lincoln in Words and Pictures”
Format: 1-hour presentation
Date: July 7, 2012, 12:30 p.m.
Program description: Delaware Humanities Forum scholar Daniel Pritchett’s illustrated lecture touches on Lincoln’s early life and character, his remarkable strength, sense of compassion, love of books, aversion to drinking and gambling, and almost visceral disgust at slavery. It includes examples of some of his most magnetic words and how his eloquent speaking manner transformed our country forever. Mr. Pritchett’s presentation is co-sponsored by the Delaware Humanities Forum. The Forum is funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the State of Delaware Grant-in-Aid program.
Also featured on weekends in July:
“Political Prisoners at Fort Delaware”
Fort Delaware interpreter Fred Seyfert’s 30-minute presentation details the stories of ordinary citizens held prisoner at the Fort as a result of Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus. The program delves into Lincoln’s reasoning for taking such a radical step, as well as the reaction of those impacted by it.
“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” will be on display at Fort Delaware until August 3. Travel to the fort is via ferry from either Delaware City or Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey. Following a boat ride and a walk down the dock, a tram takes visitors to the front of the fort. Ferry tickets may be purchased by calling 1-877-987-2757 or visiting destateparks.com. Ferry schedules are also available on the website. For more information on the traveling exhibition, visit destateparks.com/Lincoln, or call the park office at 302-834-7941.
Vol. 42, No. 234