Penn Libraries News Center

Penn President and Penn Libraries Host Lea School Students

A special visit from West Philadelphia elementary school students to Penn Libraries’ Emancipation Proclamation exhibit complements what the students are learning in their classes about the document.

Dr. Gutmann and students from the Lea School take a close look at an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation that was signed by President Lincoln.

Recently, sixth and eighth grade students from the Henry C. Lea Elementary School viewed rare items concerning the Emancipation Proclamation at the Libraries’ exhibit, “The Great Emancipator and the Great Central Fair,” which highlights the document and its role in the eventual abolition of slavery.

The Proclamation is recognized for transforming the character of the Civil War from one of Union preservation to a war to expand freedom.

President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation was printed in newspapers throughout the nation. The exhibit features items from Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, including copies from some publications and items created for commemorative purposes.

In 1864, only 48 specially printed copies of the Proclamation, autographed by Lincoln, were sold for $10 each at the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia’s Logan Square. Organized by the United States Sanitary Commission, a private relief agency, the Fair raised more than $1 million in support of the Union cause. One of the Lincoln-autographed copies is a part of Penn Libraries’ collections.

While viewing the exhibit, the students participated in a scavenger hunt created by the exhibit curators. Students dashed around the exhibit, searching the displays to find items such as images of President Lincoln, the number of copies of the Emancipation Proclamation in the room, and how many of the exhibit items contained Lincoln’s signature.

Dr. Gutmann and students from the Lea School learned about some of the Penn Libraries’ holdings in the Lea Library on the sixth floor of Van Pelt.

“They learned about the Proclamation at school, and now they see the document and see the pictures, so now it makes sense to them,” says Latoya Landfair, a Lea School sixth grade teacher.

“I didn’t think that I could really see the Emancipation Proclamation document,” says Haby Sow, a Lea School eighth grader. “At school, we just read about it in a book. But when you get to see the whole thing, it’s great.”

Penn President Amy Gutmann joined in on the scavenger hunt, helping students find items on the list. She also put on her professor’s hat while chatting with them about the exhibit.

“Do you know why it’s called a civil war?” Gutmann asked one student. “It’s a war between two groups in the same country.”

During the visit, the students also toured Van Pelt Library and viewed other Lincoln-related items, including his 1860 presidential campaign banner.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged they were,” says Ancil George, Penn Libraries’ community outreach librarian. “Many of them took notes while I was talking.”

Penn partners with the Lea School as a University-Assisted Community School, providing resources, support, and guidance to help the school thrive and provide a quality education to its students.

Text by Jeanne Leong
Photos by Scott Spitzer

This story was originally posted by the Office of University Communications online at