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Indiana State Museum exhibit explains emancipation ties to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The pursuit of Black freedom and its ties to Indianapolis are getting a closer look at the Indiana State Museum.

A new exhibition contains a trove of historic documents and artifacts.

After painful years of slavery, the end of the Civil War marked a new era for millions of Black Americans.

“Whether it was nationally or locally, the pursuit of Black freedom was the goal,” co-curator Kisha Tandy said.

The exhibition ‘Influencing Lincoln: The Pursuit of Black Freedom’ takes everyone on a deep dive into the fight for emancipation. Co-curators Tandy and Susannah Koerber say the Black community influenced President Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes and actions regarding freedom.

“Without Lincoln’s leadership and without the many allies and the Black community as well as in Congress and others, it’s hard to imagine what our country would be like, where we would be in terms of fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal,” Koerber said.

But, fighting for freedom alone wasn’t enough.

Lincoln also struggled to get full citizenship, voting rights and political representation.

“So that by the end of his life, he was advocating for voting rights and for citizenship rights that he realized that it had to go far beyond freedom and really move towards that equality and that citizenship,” Koerber said.

The exhibition includes historic documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, and the inkwell and pen used by American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman Frederick Douglass.

It also highlights the U.S. Colored Troops including Indiana’s 28th Colored Infantry Regiment.

There’s also the pew and pulpit from the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. According to Tandy, the church played an important role in the antislavery movement. “Through it’s archives we were able to see just different individuals, the things that they were doing, and how they were having an impact here in Indianapolis.”

The exhibition is located on Level 3 of the museum. It ends on Oct. 29.