WASHINGTON — Boston's arts commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove a statue that depicts a freed slave kneeling at Abraham Lincoln’s feet.
The commission had fielded escalating complaints about the Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, as a nation confronting racial injustice rethinks old imagery.
The statue has stood in a park just off Boston Common since 1879. It's a copy of an identical monument that was erected in Washington, DC's Lincoln Park three years earlier. The copy was installed in Boston because the city was home to the statue's white creator, Thomas Ball.
The memorial has been on Boston’s radar at least since 2018, when it launched a comprehensive review of whether public sculptures, monuments and other artworks reflected the city’s diversity and didn’t offend communities of color. The arts commission said it was paying extra attention to works with “problematic histories.”
Below picture is of the one in Boston:
And while the statue in Boston comes down, the one in the District remains.
But, there are many in the area that seek to have it torn down or moved to a museum. Others have also advocated for it to stay up, with counter-protests being seen at the statue.
DC's lone congressional representative Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants the statue taken down. She said her office will prepose legislation if the National Park Service can't move it themselves. The statue is on NPS land.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said recently that the District must "have a reasonable conversation" when deciding how and when to take down statues and historical monuments as protests continue around D.C.
"I think what we need to do with statues is to have a reasonable conversation," Bowser said during a press conference Thursday. "Not have a mob decide they want to pull it down, and certainly not destroy anything in the District and set anything on fire."
Other statues in the District have already fallen at the hands of protesters earlier in June, such as the statue memorializing Confederate Albert Pike in Judiciary Square. Pike's statue had been a longtime source of controversy in the District, the only outdoor Confederate monument in DC.
Late in the night on June 19, protesters toppled the bronze statue and knocked it to the ground, defacing the exterior with graffiti and lighting it ablaze.
In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam has advocated removing the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, where several Confederate statues have been defaced.
The memorial, erected in 1876, depicts Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation over a kneeling newly freed African American man who is still shackled. Some argue that while the Emancipation Proclamation changed the course of history, the statue oversimplifies the violent history that came before it, instead of memorializing Lincoln and not the many enslaved.
Beyond the depiction of a freedman at the feet of the former president, critics also say formerly enslaved Americans did not have any say in how it was built and fails to note the degree which enslaved African Americans pushed for their own emancipation.
WUSA9 will continue to follow the Emancipation Memorial and what the District decides to do with the statue.