Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial, 1963 Civil Rights Protests Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 Civil Rights Protests
Photograph courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, #306-SSM-5g-63-4732

  Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking at Lincoln Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr., making his "I have a dream" speech
National Park Service Photograph

The Lincoln Memorial has been the site of civil rights demonstrations for nearly six decades. On its steps Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of his dream for America:

...In spite of the difficulties of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama...will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls...I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight...
...From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring,...we will be able to speed up that day when all God's children...will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"

King's speech was the grand finale of the August 28, 1963, "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." The march, led by union leader A. Philip Randolph and organizer Bayard Rustin, drew 200,000 supporters, 50,000 of them white. They included clergy of every faith, students, blue-collar and white-collar workers, and celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, James Garner, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Robert Weisbrot, author of Freedom Bound, called the march "the largest political assembly in American history." On August 22, 2003 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Inscription Dedication unveiled the commemoration of the “I Have a Dream” speech with a keynote presentation by Coretta Scott King. The work, an inscription in the granite approach to the Lincoln Memorial, marks the location where Dr. King spoke to the crowd, which assembled for the March on Washington.

Of the other civil rights events at the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps none other has been as celebrated as the Easter Sunday 1939 concert by contralto Marian Anderson, who sang to 75,000 people gathered on the grounds. As an African American Anderson had previously been denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall, owned by the then all-white Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). As a result First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the DAR because of the incident, worked in tandem with the Marian Anderson Citizens Committe, the NAACP, and other artistic and civil rights organizations to arrange and publicized the Lincoln Memorial concert.

The Lincoln Memorial, administered by the National Park Service, is located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., every day except Christmas. Call 202-426-6841, or click here for more information.

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