All this month, the National Park Service is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the completion and dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. Here at the National Archives, we hold literally thousands of records related to the iconic landmark, including several thousand that are digitized and available in the online Catalog.
The Lincoln Memorial is more than just a collection of carved stones honoring our 16th president. The monument was the site of some of the most significant civil rights demonstrations of the Twentieth Century, and has become a symbol of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.
One of the first events to be recorded at the Lincoln Memorial was the dedication ceremony itself. The footage was included in the Signal Corps’ Historical Films series, which was scanned in its entirety as part of an effort to make records of World War I more widely available. You can watch the film below:
In 1939, African American opera singer Marian Anderson was denied the stage at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall because of a racist policy allowing only white performers at the venue. Eleanor Roosevelt famously resigned from the organization and worked behind the scenes so that Anderson could sing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial instead. More than 75,000 attended the performance and hundreds of thousands more listened to the concert on their radios. By performing from the Lincoln Memorial, Anderson reached many times more listeners and, more importantly, raised awareness of racial prejudice and discrimination. A recording of the radio broadcast is held in the records of the Department of Interior. You can listen to the concert below:
Over the years, The Unwritten Record has featured many records related to the Lincoln Memorial. A few are featured below.
First up is a group of gorgeous drawings of proposed designs held by the Cartographic Branch:
Other major historical events related to the civil rights of African Americans were also covered on the blog, beginning with President Truman’s 1947 address to the NAACP:
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is one the most well-known orations in American history, along with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is carved into the stone of the memorial. For the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we shared photographs from our holdings:
We also completed a digital restoration of the James Blue documentary The March, and told the story of the making of the film:
The Lincoln Memorial has continued to play an important role in our nation’s civic life in the decades since the March on Washington, hosting protests, rallies, concerts, and gatherings of all kinds. This month, even if you can’t make it to visit the site in person, you can join us in celebrating the Lincoln Memorial by catching up on our old posts and exploring the National Archives Catalog!