A Monument that Works for All

With a building as iconic as the Lincoln Memorial, it’s such a given, it seems so inevitable I cannot imagine the Mall without it. Moreover, it’s so universally revered it’s hard to believe there were ever protests against the way it looked. But when Daniel Burnham, Cass Gilbert, Daniel Chester French, and their fellow commissioners chose Henry Bacon’s Greek temple design for the Lincoln Memorial in 1913, the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects, led by an associate a Frank Lloyd Wright, threw a fit.

Read More »

Controversy Over New Deal Art

Who gets to say what parts of the American narrative are acceptable and what parts are to be excised or erased? This is the heart of a heated conversation about the role of public art today.

The spotlight has been on New Deal muralists known for their radical views of history.

Read More »

Roger Williams’s America

The century and a half period between the Mayflower and the Declaration of Independence is a yawning void in the education of most Americans. How did our knowledge of history become so lopsided? Given the hundreds of books published in past decades on Washington, Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers—and the scarcity of accounts on early New England—we might be forgiven for forgetting about the men and women who shaped their communities and prepared their offspring for that inevitable break with the mother country, forgiven for forgetting that the yearning for freedom, for autonomy, for liberty of conscience, had been part of the country’s DNA from the day the first spade broke ground at Plymouth Plantation. The conflict over control within the first colonies—who could vote, who dictated one’s beliefs, who held authority over whom—was hard-fought, a prelude to the relentless skirmishes we endure today.

Read More »

Voices of Civil Rights

For a passionate and prolific response to racism in America we turn to two extraordinary artists from the 1960s: Nina Simone and James Baldwin. Simone sang about Mississippi lynchings and Baldwin wrote about the profound abuse that Blacks suffered in the South. The two friends supported each other during one of the most turbulent decades in the fight for Civil Rights.

Read More »

Dialogue on the Mall

The Mall always was, and always will be, a semi-sacred space where Americans come together to meditate, mourn, and remember who we were, and are, as a people and a nation. When the ongoing dialogue confronts the race question; however, the collective consensus breaks down because a sizable minority of white Americans, most of whom would pass a lie detector test proving they are not racists, have never internalized the egalitarian assumptions of the Civil Rights Movement. As a result, the ongoing dialogue becomes an ongoing debate.

Read More »