As part of the remembrance and celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the George Washington University hosted a year-long series of events that inspired reflection on democratic ideals and linked the historical to ongoing struggles for equality and freedom in America.
History Inspires Reflection
The year 2013 brings with it a national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As part of the remembrance and celebration of these milestones, the George Washington University is hosting a year-long series of events that inspires reflection on democratic ideals and links the historical to ongoing struggles for equality and freedom in America.
Martin Luther King Jr. very eloquently established a link between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. On Sept. 12, 1962, one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln drafted the first written version of the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech where he posited, “There is but one way to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation. That is to make its declarations of freedom real; to reach back to the origins of our nation when our message of equality electrified an unfree world, and reaffirm democracy by deeds as bold and daring as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Leaders during March on Washington at Lincoln Memorial - Copyright Estate of Stanley Tretick LLC. Used with permission.
Almost a year later in his most famous speech in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial he refers to the the same saying, “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 their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. … So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
These great men and these significant milestones are as just one part of a complex effort to realize the promise and dream of freedom and equality in America. The theme for the year, “Pro-[Claiming] Freedom,” speaks to the multiple messages and meanings in significant moments of our history as a nation and evokes questions of who was (and is) credited with and responsible for challenging the nation to fulfill its promises, dreams and hopes.
Continuing this idea of an inextricable link between President Lincoln and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the annual GW celebration of King’s birthday served as the series' kick-off event.