The lone Black speaker was Robert Russa Moton, head of the Tuskegee Institute. He had written a speech suggesting that the “unfinished” work Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address remained unfinished for African Americans.
Holzer wrote that the White House frowned on what he had written, and told him to tone it down or lose his chance to speak. Moton changed the speech, but ended it: “I somehow believe that all of us, Black and White, both North and South, are going to strive on to finish the work which [Lincoln] so nobly began to make America an example for the world of equal justice and equal opportunity.”
The memorial includes quotes from Lincoln, including the concise but moving words of his Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Though venerated by Americans, the Lincoln Memorial was among the many monuments vandalized during the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, with the phrase “Y’all Not Tired Yet?” spray-painted on a wall near the steps leading to the memorial.
Recent presidents have used the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop. President Donald Trump used it to hold his “Salute to America” celebration on July 4, 2019. President Joe Biden visited it after his inauguration, violating his own mask policy.