We want to build on a gift of history unique to Kalamazoo—something no other community in Michigan can claim—a visit by one of the most admired statesman of all time, Abraham Lincoln. The Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Project is a community-based effort to celebrate Lincoln's 1856 visit to Kalamazoo in a sustained and creative way. Our plan is to use this singular event of the past to enrich the life of Kalamazoo today and into the future.
With the advent of the Kalamazoo Promise, Kalamazoo has achieved national prominence in the pursuit of higher learning. Educating young minds is central to the scope and purpose of the Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Project, reinforcing the exceptionalism that defines Kalamazoo.
On August 27, 1856, Abraham Lincoln visited Kalamazoo. Little known outside his home state of Illinois, he was invited to speak at a political rally in what is now Bronson Park. It would be his only public appearance in Michigan. He came to give voice to the moral issue of his day—slavery. Nine years later, he would give his life at the hand of an assassin.
One of our board members, Dr. Tom George, has done some scholarly research on the particulars surrounding Lincoln's visit. Click on this link to read Dr. George's published article.
In the fall of 2012, a local steering committee was formed to explore ways to use Lincoln's 1856 visit as a springboard for educational purposes. The committee assessed Lincoln's Kalamazoo visit as an untapped resource with the potential to add significant cultural and educational value to Kalamazoo. As a result, a threefold program was introduced as the Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Project (KLP), now a Michigan 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The first step is to place a privately-funded bronze statue of Lincoln in Bronson Park.
In December 2013, the Kalamazoo City Commission approved the steering committee's request to place a privately-funded Lincoln statue in Bronson Park. Specific site location was approved by the commission in July 2016 (see download below). The statue will serve as an anchor for the committee's three-part Lincoln-legacy plan, and a visible reminder of Lincoln's visit to Kalamazoo.
"The City of Kalamazoo supports the placement of a privately-funded bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln in Bronson Park, and has authorized the Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Project to coordinate fundraising efforts, and oversee the artistic direction for the statue design and selection of a sculptor. Final design approval is subject to the advice and consent of the City of Kalamazoo . . . The statue will be placed on ground located in the north central part of the park." —November 18, 2016 (revised January 22, 2018)
Video narration of A Gift of History" courtesy of Tim Brown of Easy On Hold.