Statue of slave kneeling before Lincoln is removed in Boston – art and culture


A statue of Abraham Lincoln with a freed slave appearing to kneel at his feet — optics that drew objections amid a national reckoning with racial injustice — has been removed from its perch in downtown Boston.

Workers removed the Emancipation Memorial, sometimes called the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, early Tuesday from a park just off Boston Common where it had stood since 1879.

City officials had agreed in late June to take down the memorial after complaints and a bitter debate over the design. Mayor Marty Walsh acknowledged at the time that the statue made residents and visitors alike “uncomfortable.”

The bronze statue is a copy of a monument that was once erected in Washington, D.C., three years earlier. The copy was once installed in Boston because the city was once home to the statue’s white author, Thomas Ball.

It was once created to celebrate the freeing of slaves in The united states and was once based on Archer Alexander, a Black man who escaped slavery, helped the Union Army and was once the final man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act.

But while some saw the shirtless man rising to his feet while shaking off the broken shackles on his wrists, others perceived him as kneeling before Lincoln, his white emancipator.

Freed Black donors paid for the original in Washington; white politician and circus showman Moses Kimball financed the copy in Boston. The inscription on both reads: “A race set free and the country at peace. Lincoln rests from his labors.”

More than 12,000 people had signed a petition demanding the statue’s removal, and Boston’s public arts commission voted unanimously to take it down. The statue was once to be placed in storage until the city comes to a decision if to display it in a museum.

“The decision for removal acknowledged the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s freedoms,” the commission said in a remark posted on its website.

The memorial had been on Boston’s radar a minimum of since 2018, when it launched a comprehensive review of if public sculptures, monuments and other works of art reflected the city’s diversity and didn’t offend communities of color. The arts commission said it was once paying additional attention to works with “problematic histories.”

Final summer, protesters vowed to tear down the original statue in Washington, prompting the National Guard to deploy a detachment to guard it.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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