July 3 – 31, 2012 Location: Grinnell, Iowa Exhibitions

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson based the colonists’ right to separate on the King’s denial of their freedom—their “inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Yet for over 225 years, the principle of freedom and our understanding of its implications have evolved.  The debates, decisions, and battles of our past shape the United States in which we live today. The exhibition invites the modern-day viewer into the lives of the men and women who forged this nation, whether they arrived in this land by choice or in chains. Their words and images provide insight into the complexity of the past. Documents and photographs from the Civil War, a pivotal period in the nation’s history, will illustrate how Americans succeeded in redefining the meaning of freedom. We hope that the legacy of their struggle will resonate for Americans as they face the challenges of today and of the future. 

This panel exhibition documents and illustrates critical figures and events while tracing the evolving concept of freedom from founding until 1968. Among the highlights are: a rare 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence, a secretly printed draft and official copy of the US Constitution, Lincoln’s handwritten notes of speeches, and letters by leading figures such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King. Some of the more poignant descriptions of the meaning of freedom to the common man are found in the personal letters of Civil War soldiers, which speak to the pain and pride of fighting for national ideals

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