Evolution of the memorial
During his presidency and in the wake of his assassination, sculptors had only begun to capture the character and form of Abraham Lincoln. Notable efforts had included those of 17-year old Vinnie Ream who had observed Lincoln in half-hour sittings through the winter of 1864-1865. She later won a Congressional commission for a full-length marble statue unveiled to applause in the Capitol in 1871. Sculptor Lot Flannery and President Andrew Johnson unveiled a marble statue of Lincoln in 1868 at Judiciary Square. With Lincoln commemorative efforts rising across the Union, Congress soon sought to create a larger national memorial. Click to read more…
Design & Symbolism
When visitors approach the memorial dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, many are taken aback by its majestic temple-like appearance. Click to read more…
Construction of the memorial
The Lincoln Memorial construction took place between 1914 and 1922. Work crews had completed most of the memorial architectural elements by April 1917 when the United States entered into the First World War, but work slowed as a result. Steady progress nonetheless was maintained on the interior decorations, granite terrace, approach plaza, and grounds landscaping. Click for more…
On May 30, 1922, the Lincoln Memorial formally was dedicated, during an event witnessed by approximately 50,000 people. Leading the ceremony was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, William Howard Taft. Providing remarks and accepting the memorial on behalf of the nation was President Warren G. Harding. Dr. Robert Moton, president of the Tuskegee Institute, delivered the keynote address. Ironically, Moton spoke at the memorial for the Great Emancipator, before a largely segregated audience.
Myths about the memorial
Almost since its completion in 1922, the memorial to Abraham Lincoln has conjured up several myths associated with its architectural details. Whereas there are several symbolic representations in the details, such as the thirty-six exterior columns representing the number of states at the time of his death, many more suggested symbols are pure myth. Click for more…
View from the Lincoln Memorial
On Independence Day, 1848, Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Washington Monument at the western terminus of the Mall in Washington, D.C. The promise of the monument’s rise paralleled that of the nation as the Union continued to grow. Even as the Union pushed west, internal forces pulled it apart and exclusionary politics reigned. As a symbol of the lack of unity, the Washington Monument construction came to a halt after just six years and after completion of less than a third of its intended height. Click to read more…
Easter Sunday Concert
While not the most famous event at the Lincoln Memorial, this certainly was one of great importance and symbolic impact. In 1939, after being denied the opportunity to perform at nearby Constitution Hall because of her race, the great contralto Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial. Standing on the same steps, where years later Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. would speak, Anderson performed for a crowd of 75,000 people, who came to enjoy her incredible voice. Anderson wanted to share her talent and she availed herself of this opportunity provided by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The August 28, 1963 event that included a civil rights march from the Washington Monument Grounds along the Reflecting Pool to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 200,000 people journeyed to Washington, D.C. from all over the United States to exercise their First Amendment rights and demonstrate that full freedom and equality had yet to be enjoyed by all Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the most famous of the many speeches made that day.
“I Have a Dream” Speech
Ask most schoolchildren today and they can identify the Lincoln Memorial as the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The final speaker at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King talked of his dream that his children would grow up in a country where they would be free from racism. The speech is such a part of the Lincoln Memorial story, that the spot on which King stood was engraved in 2003 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the event.