14 july 1968 & summer in the parks 1st concert @malcolm x park: performance & protest
#OTD 14 July 1968 The National Park Service (NPS) held its first Summer in the Parks concert at Malcolm X Park/Meridian Hill Park (16th & Euclid Sts NW). The Summer in the Parks program, conceived in 1967 by Tedd McCann, was developed to make parks more usable resources for residents. After the uprising in April 1968, the NPS saw Summer in the Parks as even more critical for the city. 20,000+ attended the concert.
The concert performers included Melvin Deal's African Heritage Dancers & Drummers, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Soul King, Ed Sims and Audre Deckmann, Hildegard (white), among others. Cab Calloway sang "Jonah the Whale," and Hildegard sang "I Left My Love in Avalon."
~40 members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), headed by Lester McKinnie, attended the concert to protest the murder of Theodore Robert Lawson, who was shot by a white police officer at 14th & U Sts NW while driving.
SNCC members passed out flyers, held signs and interrupted the concert with chants. According to the Washington Post, two signs read: "Wanted for Murder: Honky D.C. Cops," and "One Black Brother Murdered, You Are Next." Another sign, according to another newspaper, stated, "Mayor Washington - your dirty work was done."
There were also fireworks. One set of fireworks spelled out "Summer in the Parks." And when the "Star Spangled Banner" was played, another set of fireworks formed into the U.S. flag.
Your comments are welcome below. Do you recognize anyone in the main photo? Did you, family members and neighbors attend this concert? What do you remember about it? Did you participate in the SNCC protest? Did you participate in other Summer in the Parks programs? Were you a member of Melvin Deal's African Heritage Dancers & Drummers? Did you know there was heavy police surveillance throughout the city? You may comment privately here.
Photo source: Courtesy National Park Service, Russel Wright, "summer in the parks - 1968," Trends, April 1969, Volume 6, Number 2.
Record Group 23: Office of Emergency Preparedness. Demonstrations. Civil Disturbances and Special Events. Box 7, Folder Special Event - "Summer in the Parks" 7/14/68 -. Office of Public Records/DC Archives. I thank Bill Branch, DC Archivist, for his assistance with these records and for sharing his own work on these records that he presented at the 2017 DC Historical Studies Conference.
I thank Noel Lopez, cultural anthropologist at the National Park Service, for sharing his extensive work on Summer in the Parks. I also thank Loretta Neumann, spouse of Tedd McCann, for responding to my request for 1968 stories. She told me that "Summer in the Parks," had to be included. Neumann reached out to me on 8 November 2016 via H-DC.