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Lincoln Exhibit: Highlighting Black leaders during Lincoln’s presidency

The Indiana State Museum’s new Lincoln exhibit is open from now until October 29 and displays a timeline of racial impact influenced by President Lincoln’s administration

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Influencing Lincoln, The Pursuit of Black Freedom” is the new exhibit on display in the Indiana State Museum. It explores the Black community’s fight for freedom and equal rights during and after the Civil War.

Visitors will learn about national figures like Frederick Douglass and the Black leaders in Abraham Lincoln’s immediate circle. These leaders influenced his moves toward ending slavery.

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“Black people were active in this freedom struggle. They weren’t sitting around waiting for someone to give them freedom. They were organized, effective and deliberate,” said Kisha Tandy, curator of social history and co-curator of the exhibition.

The exhibit does not just display a national story but an Indiana story as well.

Tandy has been researching the local ties to the state for years.

“Emancipation was a process rather than an event, and it was pushed forward by people in the Black community,” added Susannah Koerber, chief curator, research officer and co-curator of the exhibition.

Lincoln Exhibit: Highlighting Black leaders during Lincoln’s presidency
Members of the Black community influenced Lincoln during his presidential administration. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Lincoln Exhibit: Black leaders

She said the exhibition is one of the largest collections related to Lincoln in the country.

“In the exhibition, we have the national story that happens with Lincoln and the parallel story that happens here with places like Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the organization of the 28th Indiana United States Colored Regiment,” said Koerber.

“The institutional foundations that were laid during this time period continue to support the community today,” said Tandy.

Lincoln met with hundreds of Black leaders and community members who had not been welcome at the White House previously.

He learned about the horrors of slavery and the ideas about abolition and equality influenced him.

Lincoln Exhibit: Highlighting Black leaders during Lincoln’s presidency

The Lincoln Museum showcases his photo from the NAACP Freedom Rally March on August 10, 1963.(Photo/Indianapolis Recorder archives)

His immediate circle included numerous Black civic leaders, such as Elizabeth Keckly, a dressmaker who befriended his wife Mary. Also, William Slade, a well-connected messenger.

Exhibit artifacts include the inkwell used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation and the battle flag of the 28th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops. There is also a pew and pulpit from the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.

“Influencing Lincoln” is supported by Ball Brothers Foundation and Barnes & Thornburg LLP.

The exhibition is free with museum admission. Tickets are $17 for adults, $16 for seniors, $12 for children and $5 for current college students with an Indiana school ID. For more information, call 317-232-1637.

Lincoln Exhibit: Highlighting Black leaders during Lincoln’s presidency
This photo of a crowd at an NAACP event at Mount Zion Church in 1961 is showcased in the Lincoln Museum. (Photo/Indianapolis Recorder archives)

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email jadej@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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