By David J. Kent
Saturday, July 1, 2023
Marcia Cole will be featured at the Lincoln Group of DC's September 12, 2023 dinner at Maggiano's in character as Charlotte Scott, the formerly enslaved woman who initiated the fundraising for what is now the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, DC. This is a role that Marcia has been playing for many years. Her most recent appearance was part of a dedication ceremony in Marietta, Ohio on June 17, 2023.
Organized by the Civil War Round Table of the Mid-Ohio Valley, a historical marker was dedicated recognizing Charlotte Scott, who had lived in Marietta at the conclusion of the Civil War. When she learned of Lincoln’s assassination, Charlotte “was in great distress” and declared, “The colored peoples have lost their best friend on earth! Mr. Lincoln was our best friend and I will give five dollars of my wages towards erecting a monument to his memory.”
Charlotte was born enslaved on the Scott Plantation near Lynchburg, Virginia. At birth she was the property of Thomas Scott but at the outset of the Civil War, Charlotte resided with Thomas Scott’s daughter, Margaret Scott Rucker, and her husband, Dr. William Parks Rucker, in Covington, Virginia. Although a slave-owner, Dr. Rucker was an outspoken supporter of the Union and President Lincoln, and openly collaborated with Federal army officers and scouts. In 1862, Dr. Rucker was arrested by Confederate authorities, accused of treason, and held in prison to await trial. While Rucker was imprisoned, President Lincoln directed the Union army to escort Margaret and the Rucker family to Marietta, Ohio for their safety. Charlotte accompanied the family as a freedman, or former slave, and lived with them as a domestic servant. After fifteen months in Confederate prisons, Dr. Rucker made a dramatic escape, and joined his family in Marietta. As a freedman, Charlotte was compensated for her services and had accumulated modest savings when the war ended.
Dr. Rucker made strategic contacts that put Charlotte’s vision and donation into the hands of worthy fundraisers, including James Yeatman, President of the Western Sanitary Commission. News of this initiative spread rapidly across the nation and by December 1865, more than $16,000 was raised – entirely from freedmen, including many who were former U.S. Colored Troops. President Grant unveiled the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Park on April 14, 1876, the anniversary of the assassination, and Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony. More than 25,000 people attended – including Charlotte Scott. Abraham Lincoln and Charlotte Scott are the only names commemorated on the monument. After the war, Charlotte lived as a free woman on the Scott Plantation until her death on January 24, 1891.
The Lincoln Group of DC participated in a successful "teach-in" at the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park during the summer of 2020, helping to educate the public on the history of the memorial's funding and dedication.
The CWRTMOV spearheaded the effort to honor Charlotte Scott with a historical marker. At the dedication, Marcia Cole portrayed Charlotte, Michael Crutcher portrayed Frederick Douglass, and Dr. Alicetyne Turley delivered a presentation on "African Americans in the Civil War."
More information on our September dinner meeting at Maggiano's will be available soon on our Lincoln Group of DC website at Lincolnian.org.
Marcia Cole has created a video to record her visit to Marietta – view that video at https://youtu.be/23AvR0Eg-00.
Photo of Michael Crutcher and Marcia Cole courtesy of Marcia Cole. Many thanks to the CWRTMOV and Marcia for the press release information included in this post.