Dedicated to the Proposition

Slavery dominated the politics and economics of American history long before there was a United States of America. Its devastating legacy lingers in a country still struggling towards equality. The artifacts in this case were collected by Stephen Rudin and gifted by Gail, Class of 1956, and Stephen Rudin. Their Slavery Collection sheds light on the practice and commerce of slavery in America, allowing us to recover information about the everyday lives of African Americans, both those who were enslaved, and those who would be emancipated. The Civil War is now slipping 150 years behind us. The early challenges of the Civil Rights Movement are suddenly 50 years in our past. Research collections of artifacts—letters, photographs, documents, engravings, slave ledgers, maps, newspapers, and other materials—shape our perceptions and expand our understanding of our nation’s history. They also remind us, just as Lincoln himself reminded us, that the fight for freedom continues to be “the great task remaining before us.”

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“Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

– Abraham Lincoln,
“Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment”
(March 17, 1865)