Warren G. Harding photo

Remarks at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania

June 06, 1921

Dr. Rendall, members of the graduating class, and fellow-countrymen:

It is a very great pleasure to stop here for a few moments to offer a word of greeting to such an institution on such an occasion. The colored citizens of America in the World War earned the right to be memorialized. I am glad to pay tribute to an educational institution like this one.

Much is said about the problem of the races, but let me tell you that there is nothing that government can do which is akin to educational work. One of the great difficulties with popular government is that citizenship expects at the hands of government that which it should do for itself. No Government can wave a magical wand and take a race from bondage to citizenship in half a century. All that the Government can do is to afford an opportunity for good citizenship.

The colored race, in order to come into its own, must do the great work itself, in preparing for that participation. Nothing will accomplish so much as educational preparation. I commend the valuable work which this institution is doing in that direction. It is a fine contrast to the unhappy and distressing spectacle that we saw the other day out in one of the Western States. God grant that, in the soberness, the fairness and the justice of this country, we shall never have another spectacle like it.

The President began his remarks with a reference to John B. Rendall, DD, President of Lincoln University.  Lincoln University, founded in 1854 as Ashmun Institute, identifed at the time of this event as "The oldest institution for the higher education of the Negro" and "The first institution named [in 1866] for Abraham Lincoln."  The President referred to an alumni war memorial arch that was scheduled to be dedicated the next day. The President and Mrs. Harding were returning from a weekend visit to Valley Forge.  Also speaking at this event was Senator Philader C. Knox.  The events are described in the New York Times,  June 7, 1921, p. 3.  That account says that the President changed his plans for the day to include a stop at Lincoln University "in response to an appeal" to address the Tulsa Race Massacre, also known as the Greenwood Massacre.

Warren G. Harding, Remarks at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353431

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