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University Building Dedicated to 'Abraham Lincoln, Democrat'?


As shared on Facebook, Nov. 5, 2013:
Abraham Lincoln Democrat

Netlore Archive: Viral image shows a plaque on a building at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago which says 'This Building is Dedicated to Public Service Honoring the Memory of Abraham Lincoln, Democrat.'

Via Facebook

Description: Viral image / Rumor
Circulating since: Nov. 2013
Status: True / Misrepresented (see details below)

Text example #1
As shared on Facebook, Nov. 5, 2013:

Abraham Lincoln is one of the country's most prominent Republican presidents, but not according to this plaque honoring him at Northeastern Illinois University! What do you think... was this simply an accident or done on purpose?

Text example #2
As shared on Facebook, Nov. 5, 2013:

Apparently Northeastern Illinois University (CHICAGO) is convinced that President Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat. Hmmmm. Someone didn't pay attention during History class.

Text example #3
As shared on Facebook, Nov. 5, 2013:

This the garbage they’re teaching your kids at university. Lincoln was a Democrat. And this was posted at the Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies of Northeastern Illinois University. Good grief.

Text example #4
As shared on Facebook, Nov. 5, 2013:

It is official. Illinois is the dumbest state in the Union. University at Chicago dedicated a building to Abraham Lincoln, a DEMOCRAT. Sooo, facilty, students etc, didn't catch this? Bull ?#@$&*. Rewriting HISTORY! The only thing the dems can do well. This plaque WILL be taken down but you can BET that it will not read REPUBLICAN PARTY FOUNDER.

Analysis: It's true that the bronze plaque pictured above exists; it's true that it's affixed to the front of the building that houses Northeastern Illinois University's Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago; and it's true that Abraham Lincoln's party affiliation was Republican, not Democrat.

It is not true, however, that the inscription is an example of the university getting the facts wrong or engaging in "revisionist history."

The plaque was there when the building, originally known as the Abraham Lincoln Center, was dedicated in 1905. Northeastern Illinois University didn't purchase it until 1969.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones

The Abraham Lincoln Center was the brainchild of Unitarian minister Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who envisioned it as part church, part community center (Jones used the then-current term "settlement house"), offering both religious and social services to local residents.

Jones expressed his aspirations for the project thus:

It is hoped that this building may become a center of life and love, towards which will gravitate the needs of head, heart, and body, and from which will radiate all forces that will help redeem and elevate the individual and the community. It will be a common meeting-place for those who need and those who will give help—nonsectarian, non-partisan, non-racial—where the distinction between the classes and the masses will not appear.

The plaque emphasizing Lincoln's credentials as a "small-d" democrat clearly reflects the social and political philosophy of Jones himself, who was described by a contemporary as "boldly progressive and helpfully humanitarian."

Statement released by Northeastern Illinois University, Nov. 4, 2013:

The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University is housed in a building that bears historical significance. From time to time, the integrity of a plaque honoring the memory of Abraham Lincoln is questioned. Installed in the building for its opening in 1905, the plaque includes an inscription of the word "democrat" following Abraham Lincoln's name. According to building archives, the word democrat was used because Lincoln was an advocate for democracy—the political or social equality of all people. The word was not chosen to reflect a political affiliation.

The building was initially designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his uncle, the Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Jones and Wright disagreed about the building design, which was handed off in 1902 to Dwight Perkins, who made several changes to Wright's original design.

The building was designed to house a comprehensive social service agency called the Abraham Lincoln Center. According to documents by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright, the building was named for his father's hero.

The Abraham Lincoln Center was purchased in 1969 by the Illinois Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities for Northeastern Illinois University. Since that time, the building has housed Northeastern's Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Now in its 47th year, Northeastern's Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies is an academic center for students and scholars to examine the political, economic, cultural and social forces that impact inner city communities. Nearly 150 graduates have gone on to earn doctoral degrees and pursue careers as professors, instructors and administrators in higher education.

Full text of statement

Sources and further reading:

Historical Significance of Frank Lloyd Wright Building at Northeastern Illinois University
Northeastern Illinois University press release, 4 November 2013

Abraham Lincoln Center, Frank Lloyd Wright & Dwight Perkins 1905
Frank Lloyd Wright Blog, 16 December 2010

Jenkin Lloyd Jones and the Abraham Lincoln Center
Unitarian Universalist Association, 27 October 2011

Jenkin Lloyd Jones and His Master-Work, the Abraham Lincoln Center
The Arena, Vol. 7, 1907

Last updated 11/05/13

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