Dec. 30 (UPI) — Boston city workers on Tuesday removed a controversial statue of former President Abraham Lincoln standing before a kneeling freed slave, which has stood downtown for more than 140 years.
The Boston Art Commission voted in June to relocate “The Emancipation Group”
statue, after critics described it as “demeaning” toward formerly enslaved Black people.
“Over the course of two public hearings that allowed hundreds of residents to express their feelings, and after taking into account the petition from local artist Tory Bullock that gained more than 12,000 signatures to remove the statue, we’re pleased to have taken it down this morning,” a representative for Mayor Marty Walsh told Boston.com.
Religious leaders protested the sculpture, also known as “Freedman’s Memorial,” amid a wave of anti-racism demonstrations that overtook the country over the summer. Other cities took similar actions to remove statues and memorials honoring Confederate leaders and soldiers.
As part of the decision to remove the statue from Park Square, the art commission required that the piece be documented by photography, drawing and a 3D scan as well as by a written history before it was placed in temporary storage. There will also be a public event and permanent signage to educate the public on the statue’s history.
The commission also will determine where to reinstall the statue in a publicly accessible location along with information contextualizing its history.
The statue, a replica of one that stands in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., was erected in 1879. It was designed by Boston artist Thomas Ball and paid for by donations made by the formerly enslaved.
It features an upright Lincoln holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation standing over a kneeling, nearly nude freed slave with broken shackles on his wrists.
Critics have taken issue with the imagery of a fully clothed White man looming over a barely clothed Black man crouching on the ground — a visual depiction of the implied power dynamics between the two races.
“It’s demeaning, with the Black man on his knees, with Lincoln’s hand over his head — and what bothered me most when I looked at it the other day was, the Black man on his knees still has the chains on his hands,” the Rev. Miniard Culpepper, pastor at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, said.