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tv   American Artifacts Slavery Freedom Exhibit Tour  CSPAN  January 15, 2018 6:00pm-6:36pm EST

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carolina, when our "washington journal" guest is north carolina attorney general josh stein. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums, archives and historic places. the national museum of african-american history and culture opened in september of 2016. located on the national mall near the washington monument, the museum has quickly become one of the most visited in the nation's capital with capacity crowds almost every day. next we visit the museum to tour the history galleries which begin three stories underground.
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>> welcome to the slavery and freedom exhibition. i'm mary elliott. i'm a museum specialist and co-kurater of the slavery and freedom exhibition, which is one of three exhibitions here in this museum. we actually have three exhibitions in this gallery, and those exhibitions cover 15th century africa and europe all the way through today. some of the things we cover include holding on to humanity under some of the most inhumane conditions. we look at the harsh reality of slavery and freedom and the resistance and survival of a people. we look at how africans and african-americans shape the world as well as the nation. we look at how they were shaped by the landscape and shaped the landscape. it's important to point out that means socially, politically, economically, geographically, culturally and
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intellectually. what's very important for people to understand is throughout this museum we look at these stories that are american stories. they're human stories and they're told through the african-american lens. equally important is to understand this is a shared history and you will see yourself throughout this exhibition, particularly looking at that human experience. let's start with one of the opening labels for the slavery and freedom exhibition. right behind me is label that speaks to the making of the atlantic world. it's really powerful. we actually feature the story of the queen, one of leaders along the western african coast. she was in west central africa. she actually strategically aligned with the portuguese, the dutch and the church all in an effort to avoid her own people being enslaved as well as being involved in the slave trade. but you'll notice that right below her story is a quote from
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a gentleman of european descent. while i admit i am sickened at the purchase of slaves, i must be mum for how would we do without sugar or rum? what's very important about that statement and this juxtaposition is to really think about the morality of this particular story. what moral obligations do we have to each other? concentrate on that opening line, i admit that i am sickened at the purchase of slaves, but then again, i must be mum for how would i do without sugar or rum? it's very important that we look at those moral issues as we go through this exhibition. and i have to point out as well we do not start out this exhibition with the story of slavery but with the story of humanity. and we actually start in africa looking at it as a continent made up of many people, places, societies, cultures, intellect. let's go ahead and look at some of the other objects in the exhibition. as we discussed, we just came
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through the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. looking at the making of the atlantic world. and really, the making of a global economy. the driver of the trade at that time was sugar. and that driver of the trade actually moved forward the effort to ship as many human beings across the atlantic ocean, forced into slavery. and now we come to the story of the middle passage. the middle passage of course being that space transporting africans from the west coast of africa throughout the americas, across the atlantic ocean. we're fortunate to feature some dynamic objects including artifacts from a slave ship found off the coast of south africa. it actually left lisbon, went to mozambique, africa. picked up captive africans on its way to brazil to sell them
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as enslaved africans, the ship crashed off the coast of south africa. we're very fortunate to have organized with george washington university, university of cape town and partners of mozambique as we were able to identify this slave shipwreck on the ocean floor off the coast of south africa. one of the key markers to recognize this is a shipwreck, slave shipwreck in particular, is some of the archival research revealed that in fact there were 1,400 battle stones on this ship. the ballast stones were used to offset the human weight. and we know in fact they were ballast stones on the ship because they were found on the ocean floor. so we're able to feature those. one thing visitors will note is we do not have images in this space. in fact we chose to allow the first person voice to carry the space. we wanted those who went through this experience to speak for themselves. and while we talk about this human story, the human story extends to everybody.
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so you'll hear voices of those who were enslaved, but you'll also hear voices of crew members. you'll hear voices of slave ship surgeons all discussing, in fact, the horrors of this experience. but also understand, again, there's an important understanding of the resistance, the resilience and the survival. we think of human suffering, but you also have to think of the power of how could someone hold on and live through that experience. >> the despondency that seizes their spirits when thus confined soon becomes fatal. every morning, perhaps more instances than one are found of the living and the dead fastened together. >> across the way from the middle passage space is the transatlantic slave trade space. again, we look at one of the
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themes, profit and power juxtaposed against the human cost. in that space we have a design where you see the business of the trade, the development of the plantation system. and we also see how everyone benefitted from the trade. but we also look at the human cost through the voices of those enslaved and the process of enslavement. one of the objects i'd like to point out to you in that particular space is the fox's wage book. it features the wages given to crew members who served on a slave ship. again, looking at the human story. so we look at the crew members on that slave ship and that document actually tells us two things. one, it lets us understand that everyone benefitted from the trade. but then you have to ask yourself why would someone serve on a slave ship? we often think, well, perhaps they wanted to gain passage to the new world or they needed to feed their family, or in fact going back to that moral issue, perhaps they thought it was just fine to make money and profit off the sale of humans.
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but it's important to note when you open up that book you will find many crew members actually committed suicide or ran away. again, this goes to that human experience. the human experience extends to everybody. and looking at the people below in the hulls of the ship we understand that slave ship crew members would pack the hulls of those ships tight packed or loose packing. and that experience oftentimes the slave ship captain said how much cargo you can bring depends on how many small enslaved people you can fit into the hull of a ship. it's a very powerful story. so now we're going to go into the colonial north america space of the exhibition. allow me to explain to you some of the design treatment that we've used to help unpack this story. in fact, we break out the section by region because this is not a monolithic story. african and america shape the
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landscape and were shaped by the landscape. so the regions that we break out include the chesapeake where we actually look at the making of race. then we move into low country down in the carolinas and the georgia area, and that allows us to look at enslaving skill. and then we come to louisiana and we consider the convergence of cultures. and finally we come to the north and look at the urban environment and a merchant system. what's important to note is in each of these spaces, the treatments are done pretty much in a pattern, but they each have their own you neunique features. but it's important for me to let you know about that pattern. from the beginning you see some of the regions of africa where many of the people came from and to in the specific region and americas, particularly in north america. but you'll also see how the laws
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change over time and start to define whiteness, and you start to see how africans become black in america. you start to see the status development of all people in north america. from elite, white, free black and enslaved africans. you'll look at life in the space, escape in the space and then we really start to unpack the story of freedom through the story of rebellion. and of course we humanize everything. so we feature individual stories, personal stories, about people who actually lived, labored and rebelled in these spaces during this time. all of this is foundational to the development of the nation. so what comes next is the fight for liberty. but remember i said slavery and freedom was from the beginning. so the fight for liberty is a national fight. but the fight for freedom is one that had been going on amongst africans from the time they were carried from the interior all the way to this point.
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so why don't we go to the section of the paradox of liberty, where we really start to unpack the story of what liberty and freedom means and this pivotal moment in time when the nation is taking shape. so we've come from colonial north america and we are passing through the story, a powerful story about the revolutionary war. well, now as i mentioned, we're entering into the paradox of liberty. but first let me show you a very powerful object that's personal and speaks to genealogy and the importance that the role of ge genealogy plays in helping to tell this story. we enter into the revolutionary period and there's freedom everywhere or so one would think. here we have a space that looks at free communities of color that were all over the nation at the time, believe it or not. but one of the poignant objects we have also shows in fact while there were free communities of
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color, there were limits to that freedom. we were fortunate to be contacted by elaine thompson, a wonderful woman in virginia who took the time to really take care of her family heirloom piece. it is this handmade tin. made by joseph trammel. he actually made this handmade tin to protect i like to say his freedom. it was used to protect the freedom papers from 1852. those freedom papers were vastly important to him because at any moment's notice, someone could challenge his freedom and he would have to prove that. he had to register every two years in virginia. and it gives us a little more insight on the personal experience of being free during this particular time. sadly, elaine thompson has passed on. but she was the steward of her family's history. and she through genealogy was able to unpack quite a bit of her family's story. we are very fortunate because at
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this point, her great-niece has now picked up the mantle and she is carrying it forward. she wrote a book at age 9 with the assistance of her great-aunt and is now getting ready to rewrite that book at age 16 and carry that genealogy research further. we're looking forward to unpacking this family and the significance of joseph trammel in the period of slavery and freedom and his status as a free black man. now let's look over at the paradox of liberty. again, remember we talk about the story of free communities of color. well, you imagine at the time you have free african-americans who align with enslaved african-americans. again, a collective voice fighting for freedom. but they're fighting for freedom in a nation founded on liberty but still maintaining slavery. directly behind me you see the cast figures of benjamin banneker and thomas jefferson.
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this is a platform featured in the exhibition where we really unpack that story of voices of freedom. included on that platform in addition to jefferson and banneker are tusaut momutour. she actually petitioned for her freedom in massachusetts and won, as well as phyllis wheatley, all voices of freedom. what's very powerful to me about the connections between banneker and jefferson includes banneker sending his almanac to thomas jefferson and stating in fact african-americans are brilliant, they are human, they contribute to the development of this nation and deserve to be free. excuse me if i paraphrase, but thomas jefferson essentially said you are the exception, and freedom was not going to come during his particular time in life. so now why don't we go forward and look at making a way. again, remember this is a human story. so in the midst of all of this
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inhumanity, you still have african-americans, again, fighting for freedom, fighting for liberty, fighting for the nation to recognize them as citizens in this world, right? but as we go forward we look at while there were laws restricting them african-americans found ways to go around those laws and hold onto their humanity. so why don't we go to the section on making a way out of no way. understand that many things happened after the revolutionary war, including the development of the cotton gin in 1793 and the louisiana purchase in 1803 and the end of the international slave trade in 1808. what did all of that mean? well, please note the space that we're in right now, directly in front of me is the tower of cotton, which is a marker as the
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driver of the trade, no different than sugar was during the early period. so as we come out of this paradox of liberty and we look at directly to my right all of these pieces of legislation from the declaration of independence, the constitution, the bill of rights, all through 1820 compromise, 1830 compromise, kansas-nebraska act, dredd-scott decision, and you see paired with those actual excerpts from speeches, sermons, newspaper articles all written by african-americans speaking back to the moment. to my left is speaking of the slave trade. remember 1793 the cotton gin is produced, 1803 the louisiana purchase takes place. that means there's more land to cultivate cotton and cotton is high demand and that demand has an impact on african-american bodies. and mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives are all being sold away from the
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upper south to the lower south to produce more cotton in the fields down south. at the same time, remember, this is a story of slavery and freedom. so those same women, men, and children are fighting for their freedom along the way, defining freedom for this nation. one of the more pivotal stories and iconic stories is that of nat turner. we're fortunate to be able to feature a bible we understand was owned by nat turner at the time of his escape and at the time of the rebellion. nat turner is pivotal because it like many other rebellions that took place, it really made an impact on this country. laws tightened up, and while those laws tightened up, still african-americans found ways to go around those laws. allow me to point out that we have a section directly behind me entitled making a way out of no way, where we look at the black codes and slave codes.
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codes that defined status and ability, autonomy. so african-americans free or enslaved oftentimes were restricted more than you can imagine. for example, illegal to marry, illegal to read, illegal to gather, illegal to practice their faith. one of the objects i'd like to point out is again a family object. we were fortunate to be contacted by ms. shirley burke in detroit who reached out to us and donated her ancestor's violin he was given by a slave owner to perform during gatherings at the plantation site. we were fortunate to restore the violin and have it on display here. that violin is important to the law regarding illegal to gather. oftentimes african americans in the hush of night would find ways to gather and practice their faith, find ways to gather and actually leisure and love one another at the same time. so allow us to go down the hall
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and go see the slave cabin next, which is a very poignant story and a community story. again, remember this is shared history. so we've come from this story of the driver of the trade being cotton and we're in the antebellum period. again, we see the nation and all the activity going on and the development of legislation all deeply imbedded with slavery. we also look at the human story of african-american men, women and children finding ways to go around black codes and slave codes. but we also have a deep understanding of that personal experience of being sold away on the auction block and that juxtaposition of power also being experienced on the auction block. it's important to note one of the design features we have in this exhibition is a wall filled with excerpts from bills of sales and broadsides. so you will see a young boy sold for $5.
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$5 for a young black boy is what the excerpt says. understand that $5 is the monetary value, but the value of that young boy to his mother, to his brother or sister is immeasurable. that gets us to the story of life, work and enslavement and looking at the many complexities of this human experience during the antebellum period. we're fortunate enough that we were able to receive a call from the edison island historic preservation society that wanted to donate a slave cabin to our museum. they know we were looking for a slave cabin to really help tell the story in a powerful way. fortunately, they had one in south carolina. what's really powerful about this cabin is on the front side we actually interpret it looking at slavery. on the backside we interpret it
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looking at freedom. because in fact on edisto island that is where the union army camped out during the period of the civil war. and you see the land given to the african-american community and taken away several times until it is ultimately taken away for good. let's talk about the interpretation in terms of slavery. notice the cabin behind me. what's important about that cabin is not unlike when people locked up animals at night that worked in the fields, not unlike the enslaved men, women and children, this really could be considered a pen. but african-american men, women and children again through resistance and resilience and holding onto their humanity found ways to love one another, practice their faith, grow gardens on the side of their cabins to supplement their diets and create new cultural practices. while we look at life, work and enslavement, in the same space we break down members of the community. the nurturenurturers, the builde
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cultivators. allow me to speak about the builders as one example, the story of solomon williams who was a blacksmith on a plantation in cane river. we look at his story through life, work and enslavement. he created an ornate drill bit that was used practically every day for work on the plantation site. this was a gentlemen who had no education, but this drill bit was an architectural feat. he used those same skills to create grave markers for members of the enslaved community throughout his plantation site. but he also no doubt created the shackles that were used on the enslaved on the plantation site. again, that gives us more depth. we don't look at a broad stroke. we don't look at just what he wore, what he ate, when he got up in the morning, how much land he cultivated.
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in fact, this is a man. and his story is told through life in terms of how he designed those ornate grave markers, his work and still being able to create that ornate double helix drill bit and in terms of enslavement, being responsible for actually creating restraints on the plantation site. so that takes us next to the story of the coming of the civil war. so allow me to take you around and we'll talk about the coming of the civil war and how complex that story is. it's not just north versus south but there were many voices involved in this fight. we have just come from the slave cabin. one thing i want to point out with the slave cabin is we can talk about objects and their importance in the historical context. but what's also important to note, again, is how we acquire these objects. so in the process of actually dismantling the slave cabin, we actually had community members come out and help us unpack the story of the community.
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included in that community are the descendants of the enslaved as well descendants of the slave holding family. we were very fortunate to meet with both groups together and talk about the importance of this history coming to the general public to get a deeper understanding of what it is to be american and all the complexities and nuances of this particular story of slavery and freedom in the u.s. now we know about slavery and we know about freedom and we know there was a civil war which had a major impact on this nation. we look at the story of the civil war and keeping the union together, and embedded in the secession papers is slavery. but understand that african-americans fled to the union lines as they came closer to where many of these plantation sites were located. at that time the confederates demanded their property back. but the union army declared them
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contraband of war, and as such they were able to keep them as contraband of war. these men, women and children turned this fight for keeping the union together into a fight for freedom. and as such, one of the greatest speakers of our time and one of the most influential members of the african-american community and america itself is frederick douglas. frederick douglas led the charge on pushing for freedom and in constant dialogue with abraham lincoln ensured african-american men could in fact fight on the battlefield for their freedom. right behind me is dynamic broadside we were fortunate to receive where you see a call for men of color to arms. you can only imagine how powerful that must have been for african-american men to know they could suit up in the fight for their freedom and the freedom of generations to follow them. frederick douglas played a
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pivotal role. while he ensured african-american could fight in the union army, he was also influential in a constant dialogue with president lincoln to ensure that freedom came through the emancipation proclamation and ultimately the 13th amendment. we would be remiss if we told the story about the civil war and left out the story of women's involvement in the civil war. when you visit, you will also see artifacts that speak to the efforts of charlotte grimkey who educated many of the people who were at these contraband camps. you will see the story of harriet tubman. many of us know her with the underground railroad. she also served as a union spy. and also you'll see the story of susan king taylor who not only served as a nurse but ultimately opened up her own hospital. so why don't we look at the artifacts that speak to the freedom during the period of emancipation. how do you tell a whole population of people that they
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are now free? in fact, those same men that frederick douglas fought for to enshire they were able to fight for freedom on the battlefield were responsible for carrying things such as this, this very important tiny but powerful handheld emancipation proclamation. they carried a handhold emancipation proclamation from plantation to plantation and told men, women and children they were no longer enslaved. what did that mean at this point in time? well, the space we're in right now is actually quite powerful. behind me you'll see that legislation that started with the declaration of independence, constitution and bill of rights and carries all the way through the exhibition until you come to this point, where we see that through the agency of african-american men and women, we come to the emancipation proclamation, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. all of those are powerful and important to us even today. but note the space we're in right now speaks to that
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reconstruction period. we're fortunate to feature an original campaign button owned by william beverly nash, one of the several men who ran for office, african-american men who ran for office and successfully campaigned and secured positions in their local legislature as well as u.s. congressional members. nash was based down in south carolina. but it's also important to note that men and women and children sought to reconnect with family members who were sold away during the domestic slave trade period. and we're right here behind the slave cabin where we interpret freedom and emancipation. you may recall that i mentioned that the union army actually camped out at the plantation. land was given to those formerly enslaved and it was taken away at least three times. ultimately, it was taken away for good. however, a co-op was formed with
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nine men who were able to secure 900 acres of land and create their own community. i have to point out something that's very important. this takes us to the segregation era, and this is something that occurred during the period of slavery. you'll note the church is featured here. the church is featured in stories of free communities of color. why? the church is at the center of this community development. the church was a site not just for sanctuary but also for community organizing, for civic engagement, for communication, for gathering, for education, right? it was a place for leadership development. the church plays a pivotal role, and we are excited to feature the story of metropolitan ame church here in washington, d.c., in fact the church attended by frederick douglas. it's been my pleasure to take you on this tour of the slavery and freedom exhibition. again, one of three exhibitions in the history gallery here at the smithsonian national museum
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of african-american history and culture. we look forward to having you here and having you look through these other exciting objects in our exhibition and learning more about this american experience, this human story. indeed, a shared history. thank you. tonight on the communicators, we are at bell labs in murray hill, new jersey, where they conduct advanced communication research. >> i guess on the forefront probably the most exciting is 5g communication. >> which is? >> so 5g is an interesting thing, because it's been 100 years since we had marconi, who did the first wireless communication. this has changed our species. this is what we do. this is what all wireless communication is, wifi, bluetooth. what we want to do is go to a new era of communication and that era of communication is
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directed beam communication. as opposed to broadcasting the signal everywhere, we wanted to target the beam at individuals and jump within and communicate like that. the reason we want to do this is our thirst for data is never-ending. we always want more and more. we have saturated our spectrum at lower frequencies. we can simply not do it anymore. we have to go to higher frequencies. these higher frequencies have many other challenges. one of the challenges is the signal lost through the air is too much. we can't do broadcast in a traditional sense. if i want to talk to you, i have to direct my beam directly at you and send you a chunk of data and get some data from you and move to the next person. this is a complete change of paradigm in communication, and with that, of course, huge set of challenges in the entire wireless industry is quite excited about this. >> watch the communicators tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. coming up monday on american
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history tv, two authors talk about their book "unseen" unpublished black history from the "new york times" photo archives. here's a preview. >> next in the series, this was one of my favorite finds, because of the subject. >> so timely. >> this was actually the same month that the big battle over the confederate flag was happening in south carolina. we were so shocked when we saw this. so this is reverend kendall smith, and reverend smith was rather annoyed that the confederate flag was still being flown in parts of new york city and in particular, i believe it was either part of a display or part of a series of flags in city hall. so he went down to city hall with the confederate flag, waved it around, got all mad about it,
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then took the flag outside to city hall park, across the street, and he lit it on fire. so looking at this picture, there's city hall park. not too many people standing around. what's interesting, this was about two, three, maybe four weeks after the big protest in central park, the anti-vietnam war protest, where there were hundreds of thousands of white college students burning the american flag. well, kendall smith was arrested for inciting riot. not much of a riot going on there. and what's even more fascinating, i don't have any arrest records from the previous event in central park, but i can't recall reading the paper and seeing hundreds of white college students being arrested for burning the american flag. he was arrested, thrown in the clink and next day the "times" had a big article about it.
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again, two columns down the metro section. but no photos. not a single photo. they continued to write stories about his legal case. never, ever publishing these photos showing that there was never a riot. >> watch the entire program at 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. eastern on monday. american history tv, only on c-span 3. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> the c-span bus continues its 50 capitals tour this month with stops in raleigh, columbia, atlanta and montgomery. on each visit, we will speak with state officials during our live "washington journal" program. follow the tour and join us on
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wednesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern for our stop in raleigh, north carolina, on our "washington journal" guest is north carolina attorney general josh stein. next, a panel of scholars talks about abraham lincoln's friendships both before and after he became president. this discussion was part of the annual lincoln forum symposium in gettysburg, pennsylvania. it's just under an hour. >> i'm harold holser. welcome to the lincoln forum and a special panel discussion on lincoln's friends. let's start, if we can, with a lincoln quote. because on today's topic as with most subjects, abraham lincoln expressed himself better than almost anyone. and as he said in 1849, the better part of one's life consists of his friendships.

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