"A coming exhibition about slavery, however, has been recast to reflect Mr. Lehrman's viewpoint, as expressed in an interview in the society's journal. ''This was an institution supported throughout the world, but Americans took the initiative in destroying it,'' Mr. Lehrman said in that interview, adding that he deplored the view that 'American history consists of one failure after another to deal with the issue of slavery.'
"Originally the show was intended as a modest $50,000 undertaking, called 'From Bondage to Freedom,' that focused on the realities of slavery in New York. The society has now expanded it into a $2 million would-be blockbuster with national scope.
"'Of course we will emphasize the misery and awfulness of it,' said Mr. Gilder, adding that New York would still figure in the show. 'But what's really interesting is the economic impact it had on the United States. The profits from the slave trade -- did they finance the textile industry, the banking industry, shipping? We want to explore this.'
"Asked if the exhibition would incorporate his view of slavery, Mr. Lehrman said, 'One of the triumphs of America was to have dealt directly with that issue in the agonies of a civil war, and to have passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.'"
Shift at Historical Society Raises Concerns