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Legendary Lincoln

Nation prepares for
bicentennial kickoff in February

President Bush to speak at Kentucky event
to begin two-year, three-state celebration

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(February 2008) – Kentucky can boast of many connections to numerous events and people who have changed the face of history since the state’s conception: Daniel Boone, Col. Harlan Sanders and his chicken, racehorses and Churchill Downs, and fine bourbon whisky.

February 2008 Indiana & Kentucky Edition Cover

February 2008
Indiana & Kentucky
Edition Cover

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, Ky..
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 Lincoln’s 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 Lincoln’s words.
Some of the key events included in the two-year celebration include the unveiling of Kentucky’s Lincoln Heritage Trail, which geographically links key historical and heritage sites throughout the state; a self-contained traveling exhibit presented by the Kentucky Historical Society’s HistoryMobile that will tour the state; numerous exhibitions including the Kentucky Historical Society’s, Beyond the Log Cabin: Abraham Lincoln and Kentucky; a bronze statue by Kentucky sculptor Ed Hamilton that will adorn Louisville’s 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 Lincoln’s 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 History Center.
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.

Lincoln Links:

• Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission: www.Lincoln200.gov
• Kentucky Historical Society: http://history.ky.gov
• Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial
Commission: www.kylincoln.org
• Indiana Lincoln Bicentennial: www.IndianasLincoln.org
• Lincoln in Illinois Bicentennial Commission: www.lincoln200.net

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 year’s Juneteenth celebration in Oldham County will be the Kentucky Historical Society’s HistoryMobile. This unique vehicle features a Lincoln exhibit titled “Kentucky’s 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 Canada’s 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 Lincoln’s life. “His parents belonged to a church that was divided over slavery. They didn’t 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 don’t understand the significant role Kentucky played in Lincoln’s character as a young boy and later in his politics,” said Brue.
Lincoln’s 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 president’s father.
Kentucky is where Lincoln lived until age 7 in a log cabin on the family’s 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 1831-1861.
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 shouldn’t we celebrate his 200th birthday?” said Turner, who is also co-chairman of the Kentucky Commission.

Birthplace Cabin

National Park Service photos

The symbolic birthplace cabin
(above) of Abraham Lincoln can be
seen inside the birthplace memorial
building (below) at Hodgenville, Ky.

Lincoln Memorial in 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 Lincoln’s 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 Center’s “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 Lincoln’s heritage, including events that commemorate the Civil War.
“The Bicentennial will open the door to explore history and Lincoln’s 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.
Lincoln’s 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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