“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, June 6, 1921, Lincoln University, Chester County, Pennsylvania

U. S. President Warren G. Harding, 55, just three months in office, spent the past weekend at the White House concerned about what message he needs to send. He decided to accept the invitation to give the commencement address at Lincoln University this Monday.

So before sunrise, he and his wife Florence, 60, drove about 45 miles from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where they had stayed overnight with a friend, to this campus, outside of Oxford, Pennsylvania, the first all-Black degree-granting institution in the country.

The four cars carrying his entourage stop first at the granite arch on campus, where he helps to dedicate the memorial to Lincoln alumni who fought and died in the Great War.

President Harding at Lincoln University

The faculty and students of the “Black Princeton,” as the school is known, are immensely proud to have a sitting president of the United States deliver their commencement address. They feel it is the high point of their 67-year history.

Speaking without notes, Harding addresses the students as “my fellow countrymen” and stresses the importance of education in solving racial problems. But he cautions that government alone cannot “take a race from bondage to citizenship in half a century.”

Then he turns his remarks to the most pressing issue in the country:  the massacre of at least 39 citizens in the all-Black neighborhood—called “The Black Wall Street”—in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just five days ago. Offering a prayer for the city, Harding says,

Despite the demagogues, the idea of our oneness as Americans has risen superior to every appeal to mere class and group. And so, I wish it might be in this matter of our national problem of races…God grant that, in the soberness, the fairness, and the justice of this country, we never see another spectacle like it.”

When he is finished, the President congratulates and shakes the hand of each individual graduate.

The damage to the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends” 100 years ago, March 4, 1921, United States Capitol Building, Washington, DC

Ohioan Warren G. Harding, 55, is standing on the East Portico of the Capitol Building, waiting to take the oath of office to become the first sitting Senator and the first Baptist to be inaugurated President of the United States.

Inauguration of Warren G. Harding

Given the state of the nation’s economy, at his request the whole day will be relatively quiet. No parade. No inaugural ball.

However, at the insistence of his wife, Florence, 60, Harding is planning to announce that this week the White House will be open to the public for the first time since the start of the Great War. It’s time for his promised “return to normalcy.”

In keeping with tradition, his predecessor, President Woodrow Wilson, 64, has invited the Hardings to a small luncheon at the White House after the swearing in ceremony. Harding, a Republican, has greatly appreciated the professional courtesy Wilson, a Democrat, has shown during this peaceful transfer of power, despite Wilson having suffered a serious stroke just five months before.

But first, Harding is planning to break with tradition by going directly to a special executive session of Congress to personally present his nominees for his Cabinet (all agreed to by Florence), including Andrew W. Mellon, 65, for Secretary of the Treasury and Herbert Hoover, 64, for Secretary of Commerce.

Fingering a printer’s ruler that he keeps in his pocket for good luck—leftover from his days on the newspaper back in Marion, Ohio—the president-elect puts his right hand on the George Washington Bible and says,

I, Warren Gamaliel Harding, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I, covering 1920, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.