American slave Henry Bibb escaped from the Gatewood Plantation in Bedford, Ky., in 1842 and made his way north to Windsor, Canada, where he started the first African-Canadian newspaper "Voice of the Fugitive."

His journey, as well as narratives by other key figures in the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War, come alive in "Get Me to the Promised Land," the newest exhibition at Hanover College's Duggan Library Archives.

The exhibit, which opened Sept. 7, runs through Dec. 18.

Visitors to the exhibit can view first-edition books purchased by the archives for the exhibit, other books and historical documents from the era, and a traveling exhibit from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati on loan through September.

Students and residents also will be able to participate in a future artifacts dig at the Bedford plantation where Bibb once worked as a slave.

First editions in the exhibit include "Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave," published by the author in 1849; manuscripts of Bibb's former slave master William Gatewood from the Oldham County Historical Society; "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," published in 1845; and Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin, or "Life Among the Lowly," published in 1852. Inside Stowe's book is a handwritten poem with her signature.

The exhibit, which tracks the history of the local anti-slavery movement from the 1830s to the Civil War, is part of a three-year community outreach effort by the college.

"It gives us a chance to publicize the kinds of collections we have here," said Douglas Denné archivist and curator of rare books at Hanover College.

"Our own students here are astonished at what we have. One African-American literature class could not believe we had a "Cuneiform" - a clay tablet from Sumeria, dating back to 600 B.C."

Sumeria, an ancient civilization in southern Iraq, is known as the "cradle of civilization." 

He added: "The exhibit is not just for students. It's for the community at large. These are not museum pieces but are meant to be used. And giving students a chance to see the exhibit is a way to get the information out to the rest of the community."

The exhibit is supported by a $13,000 grant to educate the public about the Underground Railroad by the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County.

"We are working in cooperation with Eleutherian College, Historic Madison Inc. and other agencies with similar interests," Denné said. "Now, we have a chance to tell our own story about the anti-slavery initiatives in Jefferson County and the Underground Railroad American Colonization Society, founded by President James Madison, of which Hanover College's first president, John Finley Crowe, was a member."

Denné invites elementary and high school teachers - fourth-grade and up - to bring their classes to the exhibit. Transportation and lunches, if applicable, are funded by the grant.

In 1837, the first African-American, Benjamin Templeton, attended Hanover Preparatory Program (then called Hanover Academy) and went directly to the Indiana Theological Seminary. Templeton would go on to become pastor of the Second African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, which in the 1850s was burned to the ground by anti-African-American sympathizers. It would be 114 years before the next African-American would graduate from Hanover College. The explanation can be found among the historical works.

The exhibit is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tours on weekends are by appointment only.

For more information, contact Denné at (812) 866-7181.