Abraham Lincoln DeMond was a minister and advocate for African American emancipation in the late
19th and early 20th century at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., the same church from which Martin Luther King Jr. helped launch the civil rights movement six decades later. On January 1, 1900, a day of annual commemoration for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, DeMond delivered an influential speech, “The Negro Element in American Life,” which noted the achievements of African Americans and called for their full rights as American citizens.

“I wanted to remind everyone of the power this one Black man had and the influence it carried, and hopefully it will inspire more students of color or students in general. …I hope Abraham Lincoln DeMond Day opens up a new door of recognition for the Black community on campus. I also hope it allows us to understand our history at SUNY Cortland and the importance of the fights for equality and how that fight must continue today in our own students.”

Tatum Pittman, discussing the impact of Abraham Lincoln DeMond, the first Black graduate of the Normal School at Cortland, NY (now SUNY Cortland). Abraham Lincoln Demond 1889 Day is a new university tradition due to an idea first suggested by Pittman, a senior studying adolescent education and director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Student Government Association.