Story at a glance
- A statue featuring President Abraham Lincoln and an emancipated slave will be removed from a city square in Boston.
- Critics of the monument say it does not accurately represent Black Americans' role in abolitionist efforts.
Boston city officials voted to remove “The Emancipation Statue” from public grounds late Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The statue, featuring President Lincoln standing tall above a formerly enslaved Black man kneeling at his feet, was installed in the city’s Park Square in 1879. The inscription in the figure reads, “A race set free/ and the country at peace / Lincoln / Rests from his labors.”
The vote was handled Tuesday by the Boston Art Commission, which heard hours of voter testimony regarding that statue prior to the vote.
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Critics of the monument say that it minimizes Black Americans’ role in the abolition movement as well as in the Civil War. Many also objected to the optics of a Black man kneeling before Lincoln.
“After engaging in a public process, it’s clear that residents and visitors to Boston have been uncomfortable with this statue, and its reductive representation of the Black man’s role in the abolitionist movement,” Mayor Martin Walsh (D) said in the statement.
The Boston Art Commission will reportedly place the statue in storage, eventually planning to move it and “re-contextualize” the figure before placing it in an unknown public location.
The vote to remove and recontextualize “The Emancipation Statue” is part of a larger national movement to take down monuments, particularly those honoring Civil War era soldiers and Confederate leaders like General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, monuments depicting the U.S.’s history of slavery and racial oppression have been removed as the country reckons with the systemic racism against Black people and minorities.
The AP reports “The Emancipation Statue” has been on Boston’s radar since at least 2018, when the city launched a comprehensive review of whether public artworks and monuments in particular represented problematic histories and offended the city’s communities of color.
In the past several weeks, statues have been removed in Richmond, Va; Dallas; St. Augustine, Fla.; and Charleston, S.C.
The movement has extended to monuments beyond the Civil War as well, with statues of Christopher Columbus being removed from cities. Critics of the statue point to settlers’ genocide and abuse of Native Americans upon arriving to the American continent.
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