The statue, erected on April 14, 1876, stands in Lincoln Park and built with “contributions from hundreds of former slaves who wanted to pay tribute to the man who had proclaimed their freedom in 1863,” The Washington Post reported. “Just after Lincoln’s death, the [Western Sanitary Commission, which aided Civil War victims] had received an intriguing request from a former slave, who sent the commission $5 — her first earnings as a free woman — to help build a monument to Lincoln, ‘the best friend the colored people ever had.’ The commission began a fund-raising campaign and invited former slaves to contribute.”
Famed orator and author Frederick Douglass spoke at the unveiling of the memorial in Washington, D.C., saying, “The sentiment that brings us here to-day is one of the noblest that can stir and thrill the human heart.
“It has crowned and made glorious the high places of all civilized nations with the grandest and most enduring works of art, designed to illustrate the characters and perpetuate the memories of great public men,” Douglass continued. “It is the sentiment which from year to year adorns with fragrant and beautiful flowers the graves of our loyal, brave, and patriotic soldiers who fell in defence of the Union and liberty. It is the sentiment of gratitude and appreciation, which often, in presence of many who hear me, has filled yonder heights of Arlington with the eloquence of eulogy and the sublime enthusiasm of poetry and song; a sentiment which can never die while the Republic lives.”
Douglass later added, “We, the colored people, newly emancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a monument of enduring granite and bronze, in every line, feature, and figure of which the men of this generation may read, and those of after-coming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.”