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Soon after his assassination, numerous plans were put forth to memorialize Abraham Lincoln. Although the first steps were taken in 1867, construction of the Lincoln Memorial did not begin until 1914. It was dedicated in 1922 at a ceremony attended by Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Considered a symbol of democracy and freedom, the Lincoln Memorial has served as a national stage for protests, political rallies, performances, and landmark speeches, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 iconic speech “I have a dream.”

Architects Drawing for the Lincoln Memorial

Initial recommendations for memorializing President Abraham Lincoln ranged from statues to highways. Once a decision was made to create a national memorial, an open competition for its design was held. The commission was awarded to architect Henry Bacon, who drew his inspiration from the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens. This original sketch shows Bacon's critical role in the evolution of the design, scale, and placement of the statue designed by Daniel Chester French for the buildings interior.

Henry Bacon, architect. Statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, providing measurements of the plinth, November 1917. Graphite drawing. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (237) Digital ID # cph-3g04709

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March on Washington

In a speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked the promises made in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, calling on the nation to deliver on the promissory note of equal rights made but not yet paid to African Americans. An estimated 250,000 March participants, as well as a national television audience, heard the speech that has since passed into history as a defining moment of the Civil Rights movement.

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Marian Anderson Sings from the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Marian Anderson singing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., at memorial service for Harold L. Ickes.

View from Lincoln statue toward Washington Monument, 1952. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (239.01) Digital ID # al0239

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