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Laura Lang’s article about the African-American Civil War Memorial’s troubles (“Forgotten Again,” 9/3) was excellently written. Unfortunately, skillful wordsmithing does not compensate for its being a negative polemic.
As Lang correctly reports, delays are the norm in Washington. But she doesn’t say that the decades during which the Washington Monument was but a stump on the Mall gave evidence that the father of our country had then been forgotten.
This memorial, which has had two celebrations and will soon have a third, will own two more dedications than any other monument in this town.
Yet Lang takes this fact as proof that Civil War African-American soldiers are forgotten. This idea insults both logic and those African-Americans in the D.C. government and elsewhere who have labored long and patiently to bring forth this memorial. Persistence in construction is evidence of esteem, not the lack of it.
Forgotten? African-American Union soldiers have come into their own during the past decade. They star (or are featured) in books, plays, and movies. The public is educated to their sacrifices and acts of heroism in museum displays, college courses, and battle re-enactments.
And the common theme in all this is that it took the united effort of European-Americans and African-Americans to save the United States of America from self-destruction. Abraham Lincoln candidly told the nation that the war would not (could not) be won without volunteer black warriors (not a man of whom was drafted).
If this letter is impatient in tone, it results from Lang’s prolonged complaint that fumbling administration in constructing this memorial somehow dishonors those who served.
The somber reality is that nothing the memorial committee does, or does poorly, or even forgets to do can increase or diminish the honor these men brought upon themselves. Memorials are for the living. Dedications are for the living. And official fault-finding flaps about construction delays are very much about the living.
Maybe the third time around the dedication, instead of black-tie balls and parades, should be simple. We should all stand before this memorial and offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for these African-American men who played a pivotal role in saving this nation committed to self-government. And forget about construction delays—and us.
Member, Board of Directors
Abraham Lincoln Institute