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Tribute Concert, Naturalization Ceremony at Lincoln Memorial on April 12

Washington – General Colin Powell will join the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and world-renowned artists at a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 12th, to honor civil rights pioneer Marian Anderson and newly naturalized American citizens, the ALBC announced today.

“We are honored that General Powell, the first black secretary of state and himself the son of Jamaican immigrants, will take part in this joyous celebration of Lincoln’s legacy of freedom, democracy, and equality of opportunity,” said Eileen Mackevich, ALBC executive director.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s landmark concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939, the ALBC will pay tribute to the beloved contralto, who has been described as a “national treasure.” A free outdoor concert at the Memorial on April 12, will feature world-renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, the women’s a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and the U.S. Marine Band.  A naturalization ceremony, welcoming 200 new American citizens, is part of the afternoon’s events.

The concert and ceremony, which are free and open to the public, begins at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 12.

General Powell served as the 65th U.S. secretary of state from January 2001 to January 2005. He served 35 years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of four-star general and from 1989 to 1993 served as the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He also served as the national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan.  On April 12th, he will read portions of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and offer congratulatory remarks to the new citizens.

Marian Anderson was an opera singer who won critical acclaim in the 1920s and ‘30s, despite the racial discrimination and Jim Crow laws she faced as an African American.  In 1939, she was denied the right to perform in Washington, DC’s Constitution Hall and the city’s Central High School due to the color of her skin.  Through her own efforts and those of the NAACP and its national leader Walter White, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, and Howard University, arrangements were made to hold the concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the afternoon of Easter Sunday.

From the moment Anderson sang to the nation that day, she joined the vanguard of the modern civil rights movement and anointed the Lincoln Memorial as a shrine to the ideals of freedom.  Those in attendance described her voice “as if it were a prayer” and the performance as a “beautiful awakening.”

A grant from The McCormick Foundation makes this concert possible.  Other major funders include Canadian National, Prudential and the Blum-Kovler Fund.


About the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to plan the nation’s celebration of the 16th president’s 200th birthday in 2009.  The Commission works to engage the broadest range of individuals and groups in the commemoration.  Through education programs, public forums, and the arts, the Commission provides an opportunity to re-examine Lincoln’s legacy in our 21st century democracy.  Its members, who are appointed by the president and congressional leaders, include political leaders, jurists, historians, and collectors.  For more information, please visit www.abrahamlincoln200.org.