On May 30th, one hundred years ago today, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. Some 175 tons of marble that attracts eight million visitors per year from all over the world. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a place where people pay homage to a country lawyer turned U.S. President who fought to rid the nation of its scourge of slavery and reinvigorate the ideals of freedom and liberty upon which it was founded. It’s a place where marriage proposals happen. Where dogs are walked. Protests are staged. Movies are filmed. Kisses are shared. And so much more. The brilliant work of American Sculptor Daniel Chester French.
But two historic events at the steps of this great monument to a giant of a man brought to life our deepest longings for liberty for all. Seventeen years after the dedication, on Easter Sunday, 1939, Black opera star Marian Anderson sang on the memorial steps while 75,000 people stood outside to hear her. The nation was riveted, as the memorial become a new platform for racial equality.
Then, on Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from what he called “the shadow” of this great sculpture by Daniel Chester French.
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free…”