Updated: Feb 18
By David J. Kent
Thursday, February 10, 2022
The iconic Lincoln Memorial turns 100 years old this year, and the Lincoln Group of DC is hard at work planning a major centennial commemoration. The Lincoln Group is partnering with the National Park Service (NPS) to present a highly visible and memorable event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The event will take place on the morning of Sunday, May 22, 2022. Click on the program at the left to see it larger.
One hundred years ago the Memorial rose from the still swampy area west of the Washington Monument. Washington politics complicated the process of proposing, approving, designing, and building the marble structure most of us have come to revere. A commission tasked with its design bumped up against the powerful speaker of the house, while wrangling among the artists, design disagreements, and structural logistics led to inflated costs. Interruptions during “the war to end all wars,” i.e., World War I, added to the woes, protracting the Memorial’s construction for nine years.
The focus of the Memorial was Lincoln’s saving the Union. Mention of the Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment were intentionally left out of the design because of ongoing segregation. Dr. Robert Moton, the African American director of Tuskegee Institute, was invited to speak at the dedication, but his remarks critical of segregation and voter suppression laws were censored. Moton was also required to stand off-stage before and after his speech, not join the other speakers—including Chief Justice William Taft, President Warren Harding, and Vice President Calvin Coolidge—on the Memorial.
As the program shows, we have arranged for a stellar group of speakers for the one hundredth anniversary rededication. They include Harold Holzer, author of the book Monument Man about Daniel Chester French’s seated Lincoln statue that dominates the interior; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, noted Lincoln scholar from Howard University; and Dr. Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University. We also plan musical accompaniment from a military band and from singer/actress Felicia Curry, who recently played Marian Anderson at Ford’s Theatre. Rounding up the major speakers is film actor Stephen Lang of Avatar, Gettysburg, and Gods and Generals fame, who will do dramatic presentations of Lincoln’s speeches.
The goal of our program is to highlight the full range of meaning behind the Lincoln Memorial, from its original meaning as a memorial to Lincoln’s life and contribution as savior of the Union to becoming a symbol of civil rights. We seek to extend this into the 21st century—how can Lincoln’s life help us further progress into a nation where “all men (and women) are created equal.”
Follow Lincolnian.org for more details about the speakers and finalizing of details. Put May 22nd on your calendar to join us on the National Mall. And keep an eye out for additional satellite events that will be held in conjunction with the Lincoln Memorial Centennial.