2009 certainly is the year when Americans are focused on all things presidential. With the Obama inauguration festivities now complete, it's time to turn our attention to one of the more inspiring U.S. presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, who is celebrating his 200th birthday this year. Cities across the U.S. are paying homage to the great American statesman, leader, and civil rights pioneer with a year of exhibitions, events, tours and parties. Washington, D.C. and cities across the U.S. are paying homage to this great American statesman, leader, and civil rights pioneer in a year of exhibitions, events, tours and parties under the banner of "Living the Legacy."
In the nation's capital, there are dozens of events, including the following:
- February 1 to April 30: The Living Lincoln Series is a series of Monday night talks celebrating Lincoln at Ford's Theatre (www.fords.com).
- February 3-March 8: The world premiere of "Heavens are Hung in Black," a commissioned play that explores the innermost reaches of Lincoln's mind as he struggles with the loss of his son and the decision to issue the issue the Emancipation Proclamation. At Ford's Theatre.
- February 12, 8am: Birthday Tribute and Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial (www.nps.gov/nama) with Michael Feinstein singing the National Anthem, accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Armed Forces Color Guard will present the Colors, and Frank J. Williams will read the Gettysburg Address with school children from the national capital area.
- February 12: the launch of the Lincoln Bicentennial Year Birthday Celebrations on the National Mall (www.nps.gov/nama) will feature a world class concert and entertainment with 19th century popular and patriotic music performed by military bands.
- February 12-16: The original Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives (www.archives.gov/nae) for five days.
- February 12-May 9: "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit" at The Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) features numerous photographs, letters, speeches, campaign artifacts and other rarely seen treasures from the Library's collections.
- April 12: the re-enactment of Marian Anderson's historic 1939 Easter Concert featuring mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, the Washington National Opera, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and the Chicago Children's Choir at the Lincoln Memorial (www.nps.gov/nama).
- April 16: This official DC holiday honors the day in 1862 when Lincoln granted about 3,100 enslaved people in DC their freedom nine months before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. A parade, lectures and performances take place in locations throughout the city
- May 30: Lincoln Memorial Rededication (www.nps.gov/nama) with President Barack Obama expected to give an address.
- Until July 5: At the National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.si.edu) the "One Life: The Mask of Lincoln" exhibition examines how Lincoln used the new art of photography to convey his image to Americans.
- July 11: Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Family Festival at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (www.postalmuseum.si.edu).
- Until January 18, 2010: The Smithsonian American Art Museum (www.americanart.si.edu) is exhibiting a collection celebrating Abraham Lincoln's 1865 inaugural ball, which was held during the final stages of the Civil War and six weeks before Lincoln was assassinated.
Visit individual venue websites or www.washington.org/lincolnindc for more information and details regarding individual Washington, D.C. Lincoln Bicentennial events.
Although celebrations are scattered throughout the year, a majority of signature events will be held during the month of February, coinciding with Lincoln's actual birthday on February 12. With several thousand different events scheduled around the country to honor Lincoln and his contribution to American history, here is a brief round-up of other events taking place national wide.
The state of Kentucky, where Lincoln was born, created The Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (www.kylincoln.org/default.htm) to manage all of its planned events including lectures, exhibits, family fun days, and concerts (several other states have done likewise including Illinois (www.lincoln200.net), Connecticut (www.yale.edu/glc/lincoln), Pennsylvania (www.palincoln.org), and Rhode Island (www.rilincoln200.org).
Lincoln's home town of Hodgenville, KY is planning extensive celebrations of February 12. The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/abli) will host a morning wreath laying and official release of the Lincoln 2009 penny by the US Mint. In Hodgenville's downtown plaza, a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony will start the day; there's a special birthday luncheon at the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School; and in the afternoon there is a free Lincoln Days opera-play at the Hodgenville Civic Center and a formal dedication ceremony for the newly preserved cabin, a musical presentation, and birthday cake at Lincoln's boyhood home, Knob Creek Farm. No celebration of Lincoln would be complete without a visit to his largest namesake city, Lincoln, NE (www.lincoln.org). The prairie city capital's "Ten Score" Festival will take place from February 11 to 15 and include free film screenings about Lincoln at the Museum of Nebraska History, public concerts, a family festival, musical performances, lectures, art exhibitions and receptions. Visit the festival website at www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/mayor/cic/10_score/index.html for more details.
Of course there are several other smaller cities and townships that also bear Abe's moniker including Lincoln, Alabama, Arkansas California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin -- so perhaps a cross-country road tripmay be the perfect presidential tribute
A selection of Lincoln exhibitions taking place across America include:
- February 7-May 3: "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library Atlanta and from June to February 2010 at the Heinz History Center Pittsburgh, PA.
- January 23-March 8: "Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration Exhibit" at the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, FL.
- February 1-March: "Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit" at Brown University's John Jay Library in Providence, RI.
- February 8-May 17: "The Lincoln Project," paintings by Don Pollack at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL.
- June 22-August 22: "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit" at The California Museum, then Sacramento, CA and from October 10 to December 19 at Newberry Library Chicago, IL.
- June 1-June 27: "Lincoln, Gandhi, and King: Agents of Change at International Lincoln Center in Shreveport, LA.
- October 2-March 21, 2010: "Lincoln and New York" at New York Historical Society New York City, NY.
For a full and extensive calendar of events, visit www.abrahamlincoln200.org.