bicentennial kickoff in February
Bush to speak at Kentucky event
to begin two-year, three-state celebration
Helen E. McKinney
(February 2008) Kentucky can boast of many connections
to numerous events and people who have changed the face of history since
the states conception: Daniel Boone, Col. Harlan Sanders and his
chicken, racehorses and Churchill Downs, and fine bourbon whisky.
Indiana & Kentucky
Over the next two years, Kentucky will have the chance
to reiterate its claim to the nation as the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
Kentucky is where Lincoln had his beginnings; it formed the basis for
his ideas, beliefs and morals. The state will play host to events through
2010 to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1809 in Hodgenville,
The National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Kickoff is scheduled for Feb.
12 in Hodgenville, where a plethora of activities are scheduled at the
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site to mark this memorable
occasion. Featured invited guests for this free Signature Event include
President George W. Bush. He is expected to deliver the keynote address
that will launch the national two-year celebration of Lincolns
legacy. Other speakers are to include newly elected Kentucky Gov. Steven
L. Beshear, Pulitzer-Prize winning author and historian Doris Kearns
Goodwin and actor Sam Waterston, who will provide a dramatic presentation
of Lincolns words.
Some of the key events included in the two-year celebration include
the unveiling of Kentuckys Lincoln Heritage Trail, which geographically
links key historical and heritage sites throughout the state; a self-contained
traveling exhibit presented by the Kentucky Historical Societys
HistoryMobile that will tour the state; numerous exhibitions including
the Kentucky Historical Societys, Beyond the Log Cabin: Abraham
Lincoln and Kentucky; a bronze statue by Kentucky sculptor Ed Hamilton
that will adorn Louisvilles Waterfront Park; special exhibits
opening in the spring of 2008 at six Kentucky state parks; and numerous
plays, musical performances, historic re-enactments, school programs,
and various programs at historical Lincoln sites and museums throughout
the state, and also in southern Indiana.
Local entities, such as the Oldham County History Center, will participate
in the commemoration through various programs exploring slavery during
Lincolns term of office. Highlighting the story of African Americans
and their struggles during the Civil War is important because, It
gives a perspective of slavery which is seldom mentioned in classroom
texts, said Nancy Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County
In conjunction with the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, the History
Center has developed In Pursuit of Equality: Educational Outreach,
an outreach program for local schools. The program addresses the issue
of slavery, pointing out the accomplishments and efforts of Kentuckians
to abolish slavery and painting a picture of African American life during
the Civil War time period.
Living History on Saturdays for Kids, a program to be presented
Feb. 23 at the History Center, will feature Charles Turner as a Civil
War soldier. Turner is a member of the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery,
an African American unit mustered in at Camp Nelson, Ky.
Turner will educate his young audience about the brave
actions of African Americans who escaped slavery to fight for the Union.
Children will examine Civil War items and make hard tac.
On hand at this years Juneteenth celebration in Oldham County
will be the Kentucky Historical Societys HistoryMobile. This unique
vehicle features a Lincoln exhibit titled Kentuckys Abraham
Lincoln. Representatives from the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery
will be on hand as well and may participate in a September encampment
for Westport DAZE.
The History Center has applied for one of many grants awarded by the
Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to expand archaeological
efforts at the Gatewood Plantation in Trimble County. This will be an
extension of the Henry Bibb project, Bibb being an escaped slave who
established Canadas first African American newspaper in 1851,
Voice of the Fugitive.
So far, the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has partnered
with the Kentucky Humanities Council Inc. to award 10 grants totaling
$80,730 to non-profit organizations in Kentucky.
The issue of slavery is heavily intertwined with any study of Lincolns
life. His parents belonged to a church that was divided over slavery.
They didnt want their members to own slaves, said Sandy
Brue, Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management for the Abraham
Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville.
People dont understand the significant role Kentucky played
in Lincolns character as a young boy and later in his politics,
Lincolns Kentucky lineage began with his grandfather, Capt. Abraham
Lincoln, who came to the Kentucky wilderness in 1782. Native Americans
killed him a few years later in the present-day vicinity of Eastwood,
Ky., near Middletown. His son, Thomas, later became the 16th presidents
Kentucky is where Lincoln lived until age 7 in a log cabin on the familys
348-acre farm, Sinking Springs. He was born on Feb. 12, 1809, to Thomas
and Nancy Hanks Lincoln in a 16x18-foot, dirt floor cabin.
Due to legal disputes over the farm, Thomas Lincoln moved his family
to 30 rented acres off Knob Creek when Lincoln was 2. The Knob Creek
homestead was located on the turnpike between Louisville and Nashville.
Several other states that claim a connection to the 16th president,
including Indiana and Illinois, will be holding such bicentennial events
as special exhibitions and re-enactments. After leaving the Bluegrass
state, Lincoln lived in Indiana from 1816-1830, and in Illinois from
LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner believes Kentucky has not
placed as much interest on Lincoln as it should have. He is doing his
part to get the word out about Lincoln.
Lincoln was the greatest leader the United States every produced.
Why shouldnt we celebrate his 200th birthday? said Turner,
who is also co-chairman of the Kentucky Commission.
Park Service photos
symbolic birthplace cabin
(above) of Abraham Lincoln can be
seen inside the birthplace memorial
building (below) at Hodgenville, Ky.
According to Turner, Lincoln has ties to about 40 Kentucky
counties and has a brother buried in Larue County. Turner has seen greater
tourism growth in his county recently. One of the commission's goals
is to bring about a greater awareness of Lincolns heritage through
tourism, which will spur economic benefits, said Turner. Tourists may
visit the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington or participate in some
other tourist attraction or related activity as a result.
In his early years the seeds were planted for his future view
of slavery, said Turner. Ideas were fostered within him about
which path to follow in life.
Such programs as the Oldham County History Centers In Pursuit
of Equality expound on the fact that African Americans were directly
involved in the Civil War as soldiers. The African Americans that
joined the Union were mostly runaway slaves, many of whom brought their
family with them to live at Camp Nelson, said Theiss.
The slavery issue was very prominent in Kentucky, Theiss said. The 1860
population census count for Oldham County revealed there were 4,815
Whites, 37 free colored, and 2,431 slaves. Also of note is that Kentucky
was exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln.
The many Bicentennial Commemoration activities will help give Kentuckians
a greater view of Lincoln and Lincolns heritage, including events
that commemorate the Civil War.
The Bicentennial will open the door to explore history and Lincolns
heritage, said Turner.
With approximately 200,000 visitors each year to the Abraham Lincoln
Birthplace National Historic Site, Brue anticipates hiring extra staff.
The historic site has received funding for major restoration work on
the entire site grounds. The site has also been able to hire an education
specialist, Steve Brown.
Lincolns legacy will endure for many years to come. He affected
the nation and the world socially and politically.
And to think, it all started here in Kentucky.
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