August 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
A number of Springfield organizations are collaborating to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation this year. A day-long series of events at the Old State Capitol and Oak Ridge Cemetery today highlight that historic milestone (click here for more information).
In 1913, 100 years ago, Springfield citizens were also remembering the emancipation of the slaves, but they were making plans for a larger celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th amendment two years later. I explain in Chapter 10 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:
On May 9, 1913, Lawrence [Susan’s second husband] sang at the “Illinois Half Century Freedom Exposition” at the Lincoln Colored Home [a pet project of Susan’s mother]. Governor Edward F. Dunne and a former minister to Haiti were speakers for the occasion. The purpose of the event was to celebrate the anniversary of the home as well as to generate interest in pending legislation that proposed a 1915 statewide exposition to acknowledge 50 years of Negro emancipation.
The legislation passed in June 1913, and House Bill 919 created the eight-member Illinois Commission Half-Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom with a $25,000 appropriation to “arrange for and conduct during the year 1915 at a place to be selected by said commission, an exhibition and celebration to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the freeing of the Negro from slavery.” Susan Lawrence Joergen-Dahl was the only woman appointed by Governor Dunne to the Commission. She was elected vice-president of the group, and her friend Reverend Samuel Fallows was elected president. The Commission hired staff and leased office space in Chicago as it began plans for a 1915 commemorative celebration.
Although she worked tirelessly for the cause, Susan could not stay with the project to the end. After her husband’s tragic death in July, 1913, she suffered from a combination of exhaustion, severe stress, and chronic colds. Susan was forced to resign from the Commission under doctor’s orders in March, 1914.
The Commission’s work evolved into the Lincoln Jubilee and Half-Century Anniversary Exposition. Held at the Coliseum in Chicago in the fall of 1915, the celebration of 50 years of emancipation included exhibits, demonstrations, and entertainment from all over the world (click here for a detailed report).