State Watch

Boston removes statue of slave kneeling before Lincoln

A statue of a freed slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln was removed from downtown Boston early Tuesday.

The Emancipation Memorial featuring the former president was taken down by city workers where it has stood near Boston Common since 1879, The Associated Press reported.

The bronze statue is inscribed with the text: “A race set free and the country at peace. Lincoln rests from his labors.”

The statue was reportedly inspired in part by Archer Alexander, a Black man who escaped slavery and went on to help the Union Army. He was the last man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The Boston Arts Commission in July voted to remove the statute from public grounds over criticism that it misrepresented complex U.S. history and minimized Black Americans’ role in the abolition movement and Civil War.

Many objected to the optics of a Black man kneeling in broken shackles before a white emancipator.

“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,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) said in the statement at the time.

More than 12,000 people signed a petition over the summer from Boston artist Tory Bullock calling for the statue to be removed.

The monument was installed in Boston because its white creator, Thomas Ball, lived there. A white politician and circus showman named Moses Kimball financed it, according to the AP.

The Boston statue is a copy of the original sculpture that was installed in Washington, D.C., three years earlier. It was built with funds solicited exclusively from freed slaves, according to the National Park Service. Frederick Douglass spoke at the statue’s dedication in 1876.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C.’s nonvoting representative in the House, introduced a bill in June calling for it to be removed from the District’s Lincoln Park.

“The designers of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park in DC didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows,” Norton wrote. “Blacks too fought to end enslavement. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to move this statue to a museum.”

Tags Abolitionism Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln American slaves Boston Eleanor Holmes Norton Emancipation Emancipation Memorial Frederick Douglass Martin Walsh Massachusetts Slavery Statue Washington D.C.
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