Statue Of Former Slave Kneeling At President Lincoln’s Feet Finally Removed After 141 Years
A statue of a former slave kneeling before President Abraham Lincoln has been removed after being on display in Boston for 140 years, following a campaign by local anti-racism activists.
The ‘Emancipation Group’ statue was officially taken down by the city authorities on Tuesday, December 29, six months after the Boston Art Commission voted to remove it in June.
The move is the latest in a series of campaigns to remove symbols of the Confederacy and other racist monuments, which have gained momentum as part of the Black Lives Matter protests.
The statue, which has stood in Boston’s Park Square since 1879, is a replica of another statue in Washington DC, both of which have drawn criticism for depicting African Americans as subservient to White leaders. The statue, which shows Lincoln standing over a freed slave rising from broken shackles, was originally intended to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in 1865. According to the Boston Arts and Culture website, the statue is based on an image of Archer Alexander, a former slave ‘who helped the Union Army before seeking freedom for himself and his family’.
The Boston statue was removed following support for a petition created earlier this year, however both statues have been the subject of controversy since their installation. At the unveiling of the original statue in Washington in 1876, leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass expressed his disappointment with the depiction, saying that ‘a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom’.
The Boston Art Commission held two public hearings on the removal of the statue after the initial petition gained more than 12,000 signatures. Tory Bullock, who created the petition, told local news channel WBZ that ‘this image has been doing a lot of disservice to African Americans in Boston and now it stops’.
A spokesperson for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told CNN:
As expressed by so many during the public process this year, we fully agree that the statue should be relocated to a new publicly accessible location where its history and context can be better explained.
The decision for removal acknowledges the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s fight for freedom.
The future of racist monuments has been heavily debated among campaigners. While some believe they should be destroyed entirely, others have argued for them to be placed in museums so as to acknowledge and educate people about the country’s racist history. The mayor’s spokesperson confirmed that the Emancipation Group statue would be kept in storage until a decision was made on a new location.
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