Boston city workers removed the Emancipation Memorial – a statue of a slave rising from his knees before former President Abraham Lincoln – from a park Tuesday following complaints and a formal petition.
The Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, was approved for removal in late June by Boston’s arts commission after the city received complaints about the design, according to the Associated Press (AP). The statue has been in the park since 1879, and is an identical copy of a monument that was erected in Washington, D.C. Freed slaves commissioned the statue in Washington, D.C., and white politician Moses Kimball financed the monument in Boston, according to the AP.
Tory Bullock standing in front of the now removed Emancipation Memorial statue .
⁃Bullock started a petition to remove it
⁃depicted a freed slave kneeling at Abraham Lincoln’s feet.
⁃Art Commission voted unanimously to remove in June. @7news pic.twitter.com/R5M3UCTjrL
— Aisha Mbowe (@AishaMbTV) December 29, 2020
Video courtesy of Raul Fernandez. pic.twitter.com/aSfpXmimqQ
— Jennifer Eagan (@Jennifer_Eagan) December 29, 2020
The monuments depict a shirtless man — a freed slave — rising to his feet, shaking off shackles on his wrist before Lincoln. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the U.S. “A race set free and the country at peace. Lincoln rests from his labors,” the inscription on the statue reads.
Critics of the statue see the monuments as a slight to freed slaves. They argue the statues depict a slave kneeling before his white emancipator and that this shows or implies that black people are inferior to white people. (RELATED: Judge Rules That Portraits Of White Jurists In Courtroom Harm Defendant’s Right To A Fair Trial)
A speaker at the protest against the Emancipation statue of Lincoln in DC said it represents how black people are inferior to white people. He added they aren’t going to wait for the police to give them their liberation. pic.twitter.com/s2zZpCr1nU
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) June 23, 2020
Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass also criticized the design of the statue in Washington D.C. days after it was erected in 1876, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. Speaking at the statue’s unveiling, Douglass said that the freed slave could have been presented in a better 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 a letter, according to the WSJ.
The monument was based on Archer Alexander, a black man who escaped slavery, helped the Union Army and was the last man to be recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act, according to the AP.