OXFORD — A bit of national history has come to Granville County — at least, for a time.
A traveling exhibit on the 16th president — “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” — has stopped at the Richard H. Thornton Library, which will be its temporary home until mid-July.
Almost 100 members of the community gathered at the library Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the exhibition with music, oration and fostering a connection to history.
Three youths — Allison Akers, 12; Ian Akers, 13; and Elijah Bowling, 13 — recited the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech in which he espoused the ideals of freedom for all enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and with which he reframed the Civil War as a struggle of human equality.
The Oxford United Methodist Church choir, under the direction of Sarah Lewis, sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “The Vacant Chair,” with Dannielle Perry doing solo duties on the last number.
Sam Hampton played “Ashokan Farewell” on the violin. Composer Jay Ungar describes the piece as “a Scottish lament written by a Jewish guy from the Bronx.”
Baritone Raynah Adams III sang a selection of songs evoking a sense of loss as well as patriotism.
After the formal part of the celebration, the audience circulated among the display boards to observe photographs and read descriptions of events related to secession, slavery, the war and constitutional issues.
“I was so pleased to see so many people here,” said Mary Darden, adult services librarian.
Helen Mitchell, a member of the Granville County library board, expressed her appreciation for the exhibition and said she was thrilled with the large crowd.
Sallyann Hobson said programs like the Lincoln exhibition attract a lot of interest in the community.
“Look how it was received,” said Hobson, a member of Friends of the Library who does genealogical research using the facility’s resources. “My family were slaves on a plantation not far from here in the Dabney Township.”
Zelda Dabbs had a very personal reason for coming to the celebration.
“I wanted to hear my grandson recite,” said Dabbs, whose grandson is orator Elijah Dabbs. “The whole presentation was very interesting.”
The exhibition was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association and was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Wednesday’s opening celebration is the first of a series of events in connection with the exhibition.
On Monday at 1:30 p.m., Gerald Prokopowicz, chairman of the history department at East Carolina University, will lecture on “Who Freed Whom?”
On Saturday, local musician Sylvanus Slaughter will present Civil War songs used in film scores as well as original music in two performance, at 1 and 3 p.m.
The Lincoln exhibition will be on display at Thornton Library through July 11.
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