On October 22, 1864, President Lincoln wrote a characteristically terse memo to Edwin M. Stanton, his Secretary of War, to grant leave for a soldier to return home and vote. Lincoln wrote: “please give this man the proper directions to apply for leave to go home to vote.” This executive order, written in Lincoln’s own hand, was one of the many historical documents on view in Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation, an exhibition I co-curated with Sandra Trenholm (Curator and Director, Gilder Lehrman Collection), which was on view at the Morgan last year.
Lincoln Speaks, a 15-minute film, was originally produced to accompany the exhibition and features contemporary writers and scholars discussing the power of Lincoln’s language and his enduring legacy in American political life. President Bill Clinton leads a group of distinguished commentators, including Tony Kushner, award-winning playwright and author of the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning Lincoln; Harold Holzer, one of the nation's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln; Edna Greene Medford, Chair of the History department at Howard University; the prolific novelist Jerome Charyn, author of I am Abraham; and historian Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Actor Neil Bradley voiced excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches and letters. This film—which was previously only available in the gallery when the exhibition was on view—includes manuscripts and photographs from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Shapell Manuscript Foundation, and the Morgan Library & Museum.