Last month, more than 4,000 people helped Homestead National Monument of America commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862.
The day-long event started at noon on Sunday, May 20th, with the first 1,000 visitors receiving commemorative medallions. Regional Director Mike Reynolds and Tom Richter and Roberta Wendel from the regional office attended the signature event later that day.
Throughout the day, visitors could view the Homestead Act currently on loan from the National Archives, get a special postal cancellation, and talk to President Abraham Lincoln (portrayed by Tom Leahy).
U.S. Senator Mike Johanns was a part of a panel presentation on the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The evening event featured the procession of the state flags of the 30 homesteading states; a blessing by Myron Longsoldier, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe; special poetry readings; closing remarks by Elizabeth Smith, the last women homesteader; and special music by Atz Kilcher, the son of Alaska homesteaders. Senator Johanns, Representative Jeff Fortenberry, and Govenor Dave Heinemann represented Nebraska.
The keynote speaker was Harry Alford, the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. He credits the Homestead Act with giving his family its start after being freed from slavery. Alford has established himself as perhaps the nation's preeminent champion of African-American business empowerment.
The U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band then gave an hour-long concert and the evening ended with the “150 Years of Homesteading Illuminated Laser Light Show.”