With it’s roots dating back to 1862, the Union League in Philadelphia was started by a group of elite businessmen to support the policies of Abraham Lincoln and the Union during the Civil War. The Union League continues today as a philanthropic and civic organization. Although no longer exclusively a club of white, Republican males, it still maintains a very traditional and politically conservative identity. The League admitted the first woman member in 1986, and the first African-American member in 1974.
Today more than 400 guests attended the annual Black History Awards Luncheon in the Lincoln Ballroom at the Union League. Hosted by the Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continually running African-American newspaper in the country, the event celebrated African-American history and presented three History Makers awards. It was wonderful to see the tremendous efforts of African-Americans being recognized in a grand room on whose walls hung three levels of oil painting portraits of the all-white former presidents of the club.
The Union League building is an architectural treasure in Philadelphia. The French Renaissance style building welcomes members with two sets of sweeping staircases at the building’s entrance on Broad Street. A distinguished collection of art adorns the hallways and many rooms that take up an entire city block. The Lincoln Room features a dramatic statue of Abraham Lincoln standing underneath a mural of the Gettysburg Address. And a stunning twelve-foot high oil painting by Thomas Sully in 1842 depicts George Washington on his horse.
Many of the League’s historical artifacts and history displays are open to the public in the Heritage Center of the Union League .