The Journey begins...

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The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Highlights from New York

Buffalo, NY to Albany, NY

I have yet to mention the rest of the Lincoln family in my blogs. Mary Lincoln and the boys, Robert, Willie, and Tad were all on the train, too.

In Buffalo, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln dined at Millard Fillmore’s house on Niagara Street after church. Then the Lincoln family returned to the American Hotel, which was mainly vacant at the time. In their boisterous fashion, Willie and Tad took advantage of the large spaces in the hotel to play leap frog with a son of the hotel owner.

At our hotel in Buffalo yesterday morning, I picked up a copy of USA Today. “Across the South, An Enduring Conflict,” proclaimed the headline on the issue’s first page. Rick Hampson, the author of the feature article, described how the country is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which has included some controversies. For instance, on December 20, 2010, a secession ball was held in Charleston, South Carolina. Some African American protestors picketed outside. One protestor said the secession ball was “a celebration of slavery.”

Hampson pointed out that Americans are still divided—and even polarized—in many ways. Some Americans are promoting the importance of states’ rights, for example, especially with regard to the federal government’s revamping of the health care system.    

To gain an on-the-ground perspective for his article in USA Today, Hampson traveled to Montgomery, Alabama. As Hampson pointed out, Montgomery was at the epicenter of many key moments of both the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the first Confederate president there 150 years ago today, on February 18, 1861. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, sparking a successful boycott of city buses led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And in 1965, marchers streamed in from Selma in a show of support for voting rights. Clearly, it seems to me, there is a link between the struggles for freedom in the 1860s with the struggles for equality in the 1960s. 

Regarding the relevance of the Civil War today, I refer to what I recently read in a National Park Service document. “The issues at the heart of the war 150 years ago remain relevant: legal and social equality, the role of the federal government, how divergent views are reconciled in a democracy . . . and the failure of the Civil War to fully achieve equal rights for African Americans and all other citizens.”

Back to the road trip…..

We drove to Albany where we did a program at the New York State Museum. Another great turnout. Nearly 300 people were in attendance. We received a lot of accolades. The National Park Service staff at Martin Van Buren National Historic Site was a great help. They coordinated with the staff at the New York State Museum to make the event possible.

On this day in 1861, Mr. Lincoln spoke to a joint session of the New York legislature. Gov. Edwin D. Morgan introduced Lincoln. The president-elect said, “It is true that while I hold myself without mock modesty, the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the Presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any of them . . . . but when the time comes I shall speak as well as I am for the good of the present and future of this country—for the good both of the North and South of this country . . . . In the meantime, if we have patience; if we restrain ourselves; if we allow ourselves not to run off in a passion, I still have confidence that the Almighty, the Maker of the Universe will, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people, bring us through this as He has through all the other difficulties of our country.”

Spirit received a nice round of applause during her remarks while introducing Fritz. The applause came after she said her mother was one of the Little Rock Nine. This was the first time I had wired Spirit for sound. The wireless microphone was connected to my video camera.

One of the nice touches at the New York State Museum was the display of a historic bible. A citizen of the area gave Lincoln the bible during the president-elect’s trip through New York. The bible remained in the hands of the Lincoln family for many years before it was donated to the museum. After the program many people filed by to see the bible in a glass case.

We are spending the night in Albany tonight.

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