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DC Hosts 'Civil War To Civil Rights' Program

 WASHINGTON  -- From Abraham Lincoln's tide-turning elections and inaugurations to Dr. Martin Luther King's soul-stirring "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC has served as a powerful backdrop for catalyzing moments in the Civil War and civil rights movement.  To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war and to explore DC's unique role in the civil rights movement, cultural attractions, historic landmarks, cultural organizations and historic sites throughout the capital region have joined together for a unique promotion, "Civil War to Civil Rights."

The program is coordinated by Destination DC, the city's official tourism office, in partnership with local and national entities such as the National Park Service, National Archives and Cultural Tourism DC, and is designed to coincide with significant developments, including:

  • The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum (opening in 2011)
  • The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial (opening in 2011)
  • National Museum of Civil War Medicine (projected opening in downtown DC in 2011)
  • Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership (projected opening in 2012)
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture (projected opening in 2015)

Officials representing more than 20 such organizations gathered at the Willard InterContinental Washington today to announce the initiative and to preview upcoming events and programs.  

"The Civil War and civil rights movement changed history. Those changes were felt in Washington, DC in a way unlike any other city because of what is here and what this city represents. The same holds true when civil rights issues emerge today,"  saidElliott L. Ferguson, president & CEO, Destination DC.   "We have created this promotion to encourage visitors to make DC their home base as they explore battlefields and historic sites around the region. We also want to help visitors to make the critical connections between the war's causes and its consequences."

The event also served as the official launch for the National Park Service's sesquicentennial commemoration.  "The American Civil War was the most momentous era in American history," said Robert Sutton, NPS Chief Historian.  "In the short period between Abraham Lincoln's first election and inauguration, our nation was already splitting apart.  With more than 75 Civil War-related battlefields and historic sites, our collective mission is to preserve and protect these resources, and to provide understanding of the events that occurred there, within the context of the causes and consequences of the war."

"The 'causes and consequences' context encourages us to join with our tourism partners in inviting Americans to personalize our history through experiential travel," said Dean Reeder, NPS tourism chief.  "Beyond the battlefields are an expansive set of stories, civil rights and a home front heritage saga, connecting visitors to a lifelong appreciation and understanding of parks as national treasures."

To support the "Civil War to Civil Rights" initiative, Destination DC launched a dedicated web channel, washington.org/CWCR. The new channel will remain a part of Washington.org during and beyond the commemoration period and will be updated as additional events are confirmed. The site includes:

  • Searchable directories of more than 150 Civil War and civil rights experiences in the region—from statues, circles and squares honoring Civil War heroes to parks dedicated to the memory of civil rights advocates
  • A calendar of commemorative programs and events
  • Themed itineraries designed to help travelers experience the history-making locations
  • Fifteen "Top Ten" lists from knowledgeable experts and local notables describing 150 unique experiences
  • Links to other resources, including a hotel booking engine

The promotion coincides with events taking place across the nation to mark the Civil War sesquicentennial. Many of the war's most significant battles took place within a short drive of the White House, including First & Second Manassas (Bull Run),Antietam and Gettysburg.  DC visitors can step through buildings that hosted key players and witnessed pivotal events, such as the Willard Hotel, where Lincoln stayed prior to his inauguration, the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian AmericanArt Museum, where Lincoln's second inaugural ball took place, and Arlington National Cemetery, located on land formerly owned by the Lee family. They can catch a show at Ford's Theatre, just as Lincoln did on the night of his assassination, or visit the International Spy Museum to learn about some of the war's stealthiest characters, including women spies such as Rose Greenbow.

Special events and exhibitions are also planned to coincide with the anniversary, including:  

  • The second installment of a two-part exhibition, Discovering the Civil War, at the National Archives, on view through April 10, 2011.
  • Interpretive tours at Ford's Theatre and a new production, "The Carpetbagger's Children," following the lives of a Union soldier's daughters who move to the South after the war (Jan. 21-Feb. 13, 2011).
  • A recreation of "Lincoln's Journey" from Illinois to DC, organized by the National Park Service (Feb. 11-23, 2011).
  • A living history encampment at the Martin Luther King Library honoring the contributions of the US Colored Troops, presented by the African American Civil War Memorial  (Feb. 15, 2011).
  • A re-enactment of Lincoln's inaugural parade on Pennsylvania Avenue (March 5, 2011).
  • A major gathering of living history presenters to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first major battle, Manassas,July 21-23, 2011.
  • A recreation of the Washington Peace Conference held in February 1861 at the Willard Hotel in a special symposium by leading authors and historians.
  • An exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery exploring the life of Ellsworth Ellis, the first Union soldier killed in the war,Apr. 29, 2011-Mar. 18, 2012.

During the war years, DC took a leading role in the quest for equality, setting the stage for the dynamic part it would play in the civil rights movement. Slaves were freed in the District nearly a year before they were freed nationwide and many landmark decisions were handed down from the Supreme Court. The region is home to civil rights landmarks such as the Greensboro lunch counter (on view at the National Museum of American History), the gravesites of John F. KennedyRobert F. Kennedyand Medgar Evers at Arlington National Cemetery, and Howard University, where President Lyndon Johnson outlined his plans for civil rights legislation.  Civil rights issues, from marriage equality to immigration reform, continue to draw people to DC today.

Featured civil rights-related programming scheduled during the commemorative period includes:

  • Rarely displayed owing to its fragile condition, the original, handwritten copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display at the National Archives, November 11-14, 2010.
  • More than 100 important artifacts and art works from the Kinsey Collection articulating the African American experience are on display at the National Museum of American History through May 1, 2011.
  • Throughout November 2010, a 30-minute family-friendly performance at the National Museum of American Historyinvites visitors to imagine taking part in a student sit-in at the Greensboro Lunch Counter.
  • Author and broadcaster Tavis Smiley's acclaimed exhibition, "America I AM," on view Feb. 2-May 10, 2011 at the National Geographic Museum.
  • "Living the Dream … Singing the Dream" at the Kennedy Center on February 20, 2011 will bring together more than 300 voices to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The pre-Broadway engagement at Arena Stage of "A Time to Kill" a new musical based on the novel of a racially divided southern town by John Grisham (May 6-June 19, 2011).

 


STORY TAGS: BLACK , AFRICAN AMERICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , NAACP , URBAN LEAGUE , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY



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