A landmark civil rights exhibit that has been seen by thousands of viewers across New York state is about to get a permanent home in Lake Placid.
The Dreaming of Timbuctoo exhibition will be installed this spring at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, where visitors will have a chance to get an up-close look at a little-known period of Adirondack and African-American history when black and white abolitionists worked together to secure equal voting rights for black New Yorkers.
“Over the past 15 years, Dreaming of Timbuctoo has been seen at the New York State Fair, college campuses, a medium-security prison, and even a nature center,” said Martha Swan, the executive director of John Brown Lives! “But giving it a permanent home, at a place synonymous with the struggle for racial justice and equal rights, is particularly meaningful – especially at a point in the nation’s history when voting rights are under fire and the Black Lives Matter movement has awakened the nation’s conscience.”
The exhibit commemorates the bold efforts New York abolitionists took to circumvent discriminatory voting laws that denied eligible black men of equal franchise. It celebrates a “scheme of justice and benevolence” designed to undercut a ruling requiring black New Yorkers to own $250 in real property.
The permanent exhibit is scheduled to open in 2016. The online fundraising campaign is hosted by Adirondack Gives, an Adirondack Foundation-led initiative to donors with local projects. Ultimately, JBL! officials need to raise as much as $50,000 to fully upgrade the original exhibit and create a duplicate version that can tour the state while the permanent exhibit remains in Lake Placid.
A series of custom-printed fabric panels details the massive giveaway of 120,000 acres of Adirondack wilderness in 1846 by wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith to 3,000 men. Most never relocated to the area, which was dubbed Timbuctoo. The exhibit, though, tells the story of many who did – black pioneers who made a go of farming, and starting new lives, in a remote, difficult place.
More information on the fundraising campaign and the exhibit can be found online.