PLATTSBURGH — Abraham Lincoln’s attitude toward African Americans differs, depending on the quote one reads or the scholar writing the paper.
Still, America’s 16th president issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and by 1865 all black slaves nationwide were freed.
The New York State Museum’s traveling exhibition of the only surviving draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln’s handwriting was recently on display in the Burke Gallery, located in the Myers Fine Arts Building at Plattsburgh State.
“Everyone is very excited that it made it to Plattsburgh,” said Charline Faller, who works at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum. “I think it is a great experience and opportunity for the campus and local community to be part of our nation’s history.”
The exhibit included the draft and the official version of the preliminary document, issued Sept. 22, 1862.
The two documents were displayed along with the manuscript of a Sept. 12, 1962 speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission in New York City.
King’s speech – typewritten with handwritten notes throughout – argued that descendants of slaves were still awaiting civil rights.
Lincoln’s draft copy shows he was thinking while writing and toying with the idea of compensating slaveholders. His fingerprint can be seen in the ink.
Lincoln served from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865 and led the country though the American Civil War.
Lincoln openly disapproved of slavery, in one speech saying, “I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.”
He argued that while the founding fathers didn’t declare all were equal in “color, size, intellect, moral developments or social capacity,” they did consider all men equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
At one point, Lincoln admitted that as president he would not free a single slave if it meant saving the union, though he pointed out that his personal feelings remained the same.