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Secession vs. Union illustration, Harper’s Weekly, 1863. Image Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
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Traveling Exhibit of "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" at WIU Oct. 7-Nov. 19

September 16, 2010

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MACOMB, IL – For six weeks this fall, Western Illinois University's Leslie F. Malpass Library Garden Lounge will be the site of "Abraham Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War," a traveling exhibition for libraries, which 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 (NEH). "Abraham Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" ( is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

From Oct. 7-Nov. 19, students of all ages and history enthusiasts are invited to view the free exhibition, which consists of a series of museum-style panels which trace the evolution of President Lincoln's response to the secession crisis of 1860-1861, and his determination to preserve the Union. The exhibit explores how these problems shaped Lincoln's view of his responsibility to uphold the Constitution during the war, said WIU Assistant Professor of History and Project Director Timothy Roberts. It focuses on Lincoln's treatment of civil liberties, especially habeas corpus (a legal action for detainees to seek release from unlawful custody), and his wartime policy toward slavery, culminating in the Emancipation Proclamation.

The traveling exhibition recognizes the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign and the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Lincoln's 200th birthday was celebrated in 2009.

WIU is one of only two institutions in Illinois – and one of 50 nationally – to be chosen as a host site for the exhibit. Roberts encourages junior and senior high school teachers who are interested in bringing their classes to view the exhibit to contact him (see below) to arrange for group visits.

A series of events, open free to the public, are planned in conjunction with this exhibit, Roberts said.

An Oct. 7 opening night reception will include a presentation of "Abraham Lincoln in Song" by Macomb singer Chris Vallillo at 8 p.m. in the College of Fine Arts and Communication Recital Hall.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, a panel presentation on Lincoln and the Constitution will be held in Stipes Hall 121. Panelists will include Antonio Delgado, Illinois Humanities Rhodes Scholar; Civil War historian and WIU History Professor/Chair Emeritus Larry Balsamo; and Constitution scholar and WIU Political Science Professor Rick Hardy.

A national speaker series will include the Honorable Frank Williams, former Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, author of "Judging Lincoln" (2002), coauthor of "The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views" (2008), member of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Justice Williams will present "Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties in Wartime" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in Stipes Hall 121.

Another nationally-known speaker, Bruce Levine, the J.G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, is the author of "Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of the Civil War" (1992, 2005) and "Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War" (2005). Levine will present "Abraham Lincoln as a Revolutionary Leader" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11 in Stipes Hall 121.

Grant monies to support this exhibition at Western have been provided by the NEH "We the People" funding initiative, which is intended to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture.

Co-sponsors of the Lincoln exhibit speaker series include the McDonough County Bar Association; the Abraham Lincoln Association; the Illinois Humanities Council; the Organization of American Historians; Jerry Spolar, DDS; Nancy Paridy, Esq.; Bill Burton; David and Sally Egler; WIU's College of Arts and Sciences; departments of history, philosophy and religious studies, African-American studies and political science; and the Malpass Library.

For more information, contact Roberts at (309) 298-1053, or e-mail

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