By John A. O'Brien
Thursday, July 29, 2021
When the Lincoln Memorial reaches its 100th birthday in May 2022, the Lincoln Group will be among the host organizations sponsoring programs and commemorations. President David Kent has worked with the board to outline a concept for participation. Now the work of
filling in the many details begins. Members are invited to submit ideas for presentations connecting the Memorial with Lincoln's legacy, which includes the securing of our popular government and the assurance of equal justice for all. One area of inclusion is to address the decision during the original dedication to deny the full participation of African Americans.
The National Park Service plans to facilitate the entire month of May to commemorate all aspects of the Memorial. This will include a range of events and participating organizations. The Lincoln Group's program will be among the featured activities. We expect that our program will attempt to honor the full range of Lincoln's contribution to our national existence. The program will be held on the steps of the Memorial and is expected to include eminent speakers, musical presentations, and perhaps even some noted celebrities. The NPS had hoped to complete renovations to the Memorial's understory; that project has been delayed. [A report on the scope of the project was reported in an earlier post.] No matter what the status of the renovations are, our centennial program will go on.
It is historical fact that the Lincoln Memorial was built to honor the 16th president as the "Savior of the Nation." As 1922 was a time of racial strife in this country, Lincoln's role as "Emancipator" was intentionally not referenced at the site or the dedication. Since that time, the Memorial has become deeply connected with the continuing struggle for freedom and equality. African American opera singer Marian Anderson began that process in 1939 with a concert on the Memorial steps after being denied entry in the DAR Constitution Hall. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 - the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - solidified the Memorial as an emblem of civil rights. One concept the Lincoln Group program hopes to include is to recognize this evolution by having prominent scholars and public officials speak to that connection. One consideration is to address the speech African American scholar, presidential adviser, and principal of the Tuskegee Institute intended to give at the dedication in 1922. Organizers demanded that Moton mute his criticisms of racial injustice, and he complied. Therefore, we seek ideas for how we can incorporate this into our program.
The elements of the Lincoln Group's program are just now being developed. Your ideas for what and how to best present at this historical event will be appreciated. Please recommend speakers to provide historical insight, as well as eminent politicians, media personalities, musicians, color guards, singers, and any ideas you may have for creating an appropriate and memorable event.
The Lincoln Group is known for the quality events that it has produced with the NPS in the past, such as for the 150th anniversary celebrations of Lincoln's inaugurals and for the Emancipation Proclamation. Member input was essential then as now. You can submit your thoughts on the Contact form of this site or to LincolnianDC@gmail.com.
We look forward to your input into this once-in-a-lifetime commemoration.