Hurrah for the choice of the nation! Our chieftan so brave and so true;
We’ll go for the great Reformation — For Lincoln and liberty too! —“Lincoln and Liberty,” 1860
The echoes of this campaign song, made famous by songster and abolitionist Jessie Hutchinson, rang the rafters as the Washington Revels Heritage Voices and the Roustabout Old Time String Band helped celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday Open House at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC on February 12. The Heritage Voices appeared as part of a daylong celebration honoring the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and the grand opening of the Theatre’s new Center for Education and Leadership, slated to open later this month.
It was the experience of a lifetime.
Being able to sing this historic and poignant music while reading the words of men and women who lived during the Civil War is one thing, but presenting it in a place so imbued with Abraham Lincoln’s presence—and the history of that fateful night in April 1865—is another.
Over this past year—beginning with performances in the Fall of 2010 and a CD recording featuring music of the American Civil War, “Hard Times Come Again No More“—Washington Revels Heritage Voices have performed in many historic sites throughout the metropolitan Washington area. The group presents a wide variety of music from the era, including African American traditional music and spirituals, as well as narration and readings from primary source materials dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.
“Music has done its share, and more than its share, in winning this war.”
— Union General Philip Sheridan
February is another month of holidays–Valentine’s Day, and of course, Presidents Day, which celebrates the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But there is another famous birthday in February–that of the former slave, orator, and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. In fact, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which originated what was once called “Negro History Week,” chose the second week of February in 1926 for the observance in order to honor the birthdays of Lincoln and Douglass. (In 1976, “Negro History Week” was expanded to become what we know as “Black History Month”).
Saturday, February 11th, 2012 was a celebration of the 194th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth, and the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices marked that occasion with a performance at his former estate, Cedar Hill, in Southeast Washington. The group shared songs, stories, and readings from Mr. Douglass’ time, including the stirring reading, “Men of Color! To Arms!” an essay used to encourage African American men to join the Union Army.
The famous leader of the abolitionist movement died in February 1895 at age 77. Born into slavery, Douglass escaped to spend his life fighting for justice and equality for all people. His tireless struggle, brilliant words, and inclusive vision of humanity continue to inspire and sustain people today.
The theme of this year’s event was “Abolition,” and featured programs on Frederick Douglass’ work, as well as the ongoing fight against slavery today. US Ambassador CdeBaca delivered the keynote address, and winners of the annual oratorical contest, open to students across the country, recited excerpts from a Frederick Douglass speech.