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CCRI to host exhibition about Lincoln and the Civil War plus related special events

March 6, 2015

Poster for Lincoln exhibition A traveling exhibition "Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War" will visit CCRI's Knight Campus in Warwick from March 25 to May 1.(Credit: Alusiv Inc. for ALA)

As the American Civil War sesquicentennial comes to a close, the Community College of Rhode Island will showcase a special historical exhibition about the era in the Great Hall at the Knight Campus in Warwick from March 25 through May 1.

"Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War," a traveling exhibition for libraries, was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War" is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

"When you consider the fact that the war ended 150 years ago this April and the 13th Amendment permanently ending slavery was ratified in December, the fact that we're getting this exhibit during this sesquicentennial commemoration is a big deal," said Professor Jack Every. He is serving as the project scholar for the exhibition, which centers on the constitutional issues of secession, civil liberties and emancipation Abraham Lincoln faced.

Professor Kathy Blessing, librarian and project director, has a personal interest in the Civil War – she is a direct descendent of two soldiers who served in Massachusetts regiments. The wartime letters of one of these volunteers, Pvt. Thomas Armstrong of the Massachusetts 30th Infantry, were the subject of her sabbatical research in 2008. The other, Pvt. Joseph Isaacs of the 4th Heavy Artillery, was the focus of her presentation at an international conference on Jewish genealogy in 2013.

Blessing could not overstate the importance of President Lincoln's leadership, nor the resulting documents, during this time: "His vision steered the nation through a grave constitutional crisis; 150 years later, we're still impacted by the documents featured in this exhibit," she said.

Blessing described the exhibition as a series of five large, informative panels organized by theme that provide quick lessons on major issues of the Civil War era. The panels include photographic reproductions of key documents, including a draft of Lincoln's first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.

The Knight Campus also will host several related events sponsored by the CCRI Foundation and the Charles Sullivan Fund for the Arts and Humanities. All programs will be free and open to the public.

  • An opening program will take place at 6:30 p.m. on March 25 in Room 1040, and will include presentations by Associate Professor Suzanne McCormack alongside Every, showcasing the themes of the exhibition.
  • Professor Thomas Turner of Bridgewater State University will speak about Lincoln's assassination at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, in the Bobby Hackett Theater. Turner is one of the foremost authorities on the assassination, and served as a scholarly consultant in the making of the major motion picture "The Conspirator."
  • CCRI Art Department Professor Tom Morrissey will give a gallery night presentation about Civil War photography at 6:30 p.m. on April 22 in Room 4080.
  • Finally, renowned Civil War historian and Brown University Professor Michael Vorenberg, who served as an academic consultant for the movie "Lincoln," will speak about the ratification of the 13th Amendment at 6:30 p.m. on April 29 in the Bobby Hackett Theater.

"The highly visual exhibit and enriching programs scheduled to accompany it provide opportunities for our college community and local residents to connect with historical issues that may otherwise seem remote or difficult to grasp," Blessing said. "Through engagement with the graphic panels and attending the scholarly presentations, we will gain a rounded view of what's important to remember about the Civil War era and its impact on subsequent generations – including our own."

Every, who specializes in Civil War-era history at the college, said he will encourage his students to interact heavily with the exhibition and related events as part of his curriculum as well as for honors projects. The Rhode Island Historical Society, which will be collaborating with CCRI to publicize the project, plans to tap its networks to drive awareness in the larger community.

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Last Updated: 8/25/16