Frederick Douglass criticized the design of the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. days after it was unveiled in 1876, according to a recently discovered newspaper clipping, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Douglass conveyed his disapproval five days after the statue, depicting a kneeling black man under a standing Abraham Lincoln, was unveiled in a letter to the National Republican newspaper, the WSJ reported. Douglass, who also spoke at the statue’s unveiling, said in his letter that the freed slave could have been shown in a more honorable way.
“The negro here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude. What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man,” Douglass wrote in his letter to the editor, the WSJ reported.
The monument has become a target of activists who view it as reinforcing racial injustice. Protesters announced plans to remove the statue themselves, according to an Instagram post on June 24. The post said, “the statue represents a message that the freedoms and liberation of black people can only happen if it is on the white man’s terms.”
Christopher Newport University Professor Jonathan White found Douglass’ letter criticizing the statue while discussing social justice issues with another professor, the WSJ reported. The pair discovered the letter, the WSJ reported, after searching digital newspaper archives the uncommon word Douglass’ used: “couchant.”
It was a text-message debate that led @ScottSandage and @CivilWarJon to discover a vital American artifact last weekend: a long-forgotten letter showing how Frederick Douglass really felt about a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a slave.https://t.co/XnelXS2vpt
— Ted Mann (@TMannWSJ) July 4, 2020
“There’s room in Lincoln Park for another monument and I throw out this suggestion to the end that it may be taken up and acted upon,” Douglass wrote, the Washington Post reported. (RELATED: ‘Y’all Don’t Even Know The History’: Sign-Carrying Black Man Rips Protesters Who Want To Take Down Lincoln Statue)
The monument was revealed in Lincoln Park to more than 25,000 people in April 1876, the Post reported. Douglass spoke at the dedication, and mentioned that Lincoln only hesitantly signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
While the concept was chosen by a primarily white charity called the Western Sanitary Commission, former slaves funded the monument, according to the National Park Service, the WSJ reported. The fundraiser for the monument began with a $5 contribution from Charlotte Scott, her first earnings as a free woman.
The National Park Service did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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