Abraham Lincoln—the quintessential westerner—owed much of his national political success to his impact on the eastern state of New York—and, in turn, New York's impact on him.This exhibition of original artifacts, iconic images, and hand-written period documents, many in Lincoln's own hand, will for the first time fully trace the evolution of Lincoln's relationship with the nation's largest and wealthiest state: from the time of his triumphant Cooper Union address here in 1860, to his efforts to hold the Union together in 1861, to the early challenges of recruitment and investment in the Civil War, to the development of new military technologies, and the challenge to civil liberties in time of rebellion. Lincoln's evolving stance on slavery issues alternately pleased and infuriated New Yorkers. African-Americans, many of them veterans of the anti-slavery movement and Underground Railroad activism, saw Lincoln as slow to deal with the numerous slaves escaping during the war. These "contraband" forces clamored to join the Union army which for several years excluded colored troops – be they free men or the newly freed. Meanwhile free black New Yorkers readied volunteer regiments.
New York's role as the Union's prime provider of manpower, treasure, media coverage, image-making, and protest, some of it racist—the 1863 Draft Riots and the robust effort to unseat Lincoln in 1864—will be traced alongside Lincoln's concurrent growth as a leader, writer, symbol of Union and freedom, and ultimately as national martyr. Through all, from political parades to funeral processions, as this show will demonstrate, New York played a surprisingly central role in the Lincoln story—and Lincoln became a leading player in the life of New York. This exhibition commemorates the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial. A catalog will accompany the exhibition.