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Dedicating the Lincoln Memorial | Voice of Freedom

When the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922, the ceremony was segregated. Little mention was made of Lincoln’s role in emancipation. Instead, his legacy was viewed through a warped understanding of the Civil War – one in which it was a tragic break between white men, and enslaved people had little role and no voice. Only one African American speaker participated in the ceremony the president of the Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Robert Moton, whose speech was censored. The African American public who held Lincoln in high esteem as the Great Emancipator saw the dedication as a mockery of his memory. Some Black press urged readers to boycott the memorial

Learn more about VOICE OF FREEDOM, including where to watch the documentary: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/voice-freedom/

On Easter Sunday, 1939, contralto Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed on the walls of the monument behind her were the words “all men are created equal.” Barred from performing in Constitution Hall because of her race, Anderson would sing for the American people in the open air. Hailed as a voice that “comes around once in a hundred years” by maestros in Europe and widely celebrated by both white and black audiences at home, her fame hadn’t been enough to spare her from the indignities and outright violence of racism and segregation. Voice of Freedom interweaves Anderson’s rich life story with this landmark moment in history, exploring fundamental questions about talent, race, fame, democracy, and the American soul.
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