By Edward Epstein
May 23, 2022
Editors' note: Over coming weeks we will be sharing images and words from the successful 100th anniversary celebration that the Lincoln Group of D.C. co-hosted yesterday for the Lincoln Memorial. The event was widely praised for being moving, colorful, thought-provoking and, thankfully, held to under two hours under a broiling Washington sun.
So let's get started.
Back on May 30, 1922 the only African-American allowed to speak at the memorial's dedication event was Robert Russa Moton, president of what was then called the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Moton's remarks were censored because he planned to call on America to live up to its promise of racial egalitarianism first enunciated by President Abraham Lincoln. But those words were considered too subversive in the segregated society of the 1920s so Moton had to cut them out.
In the photo below, you can see Moton making his speech.
Moton (pictured in the photo below) had five children and Tuskegee Institute became Tuskegee University. A century later the Lincoln Group decided that any celebration of the memorial's centennial should include a tribute to Moton and his message. As part of that, we set out to find descendants of Moton and invite them to be honored guests at the program we co-sponsored with the National Park Service and the Lincoln Forum.
Happily, sleuthing by one of the group's
members who wants to remain anonymous found great-grandchildren of Moton who were eager to come to the nation's capital for the 100th anniversary commemoration.
Moton died in 1940. His descendants live across the country and efforts by our member and by John Kelly of the Washington Post, who has written about our search, resulted in a lot of dead ends before we hit pay dirt.
So it was pretty exciting when four Moton descendants came to our event, well before the starting hour of 10 a.m., to meet members of the Lincoln Group and others among the hundreds who turned out for the anniversary program.
So here they are. In the second row are Jennifer Hardy Moton and her husband, Robert Darrell Moton, a great-grandson of Robert Russa Moton. Jennifer has her hand on the shoulder of Parker Moton, the daughter of Jennifer and Robert Darrell. On the right is a Moton great-grandaughter, Consuela Moton Austin.
By the way, the photo to the left was shot with the Motons standing at approximately the spot where their ancestor delivered his speech in 1922. The hectic weekend marked young Parker's first visit to Washington.
The keynote speaker at our 2022 event was one of Moton's successors at Tuskegee, the current president of what is now Tuskegee University, Dr. Charlotte Morris. Moving entertainment came from singer Felicia Curry and actor Stephen Lang.
In the photo below, here are the Motons joined by Morris (in the center in the hat), Curry and Lang.