Emancipation Memorial honoring freed slaves in Boston officially removed

by Peter Heck · Dec 31st, 2020 8:47 am
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Last Updated Jan 1st, 2021 at 2:59 am

Boston's iconic Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Freedman's Memorial, has been officially removed from its downtown location following the city's public arts commission vote to do so last summer.

The statue, which shows former President Abraham Lincoln overlooking a newly freed slave who is looking up, was determined by the commission to be "perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation's freedoms."

The statue is not being destroyed, but relocated to a currently undetermined site "where it's history and context can be better explained," a spokesperson for the Boston's mayoral office said.

The memorial became controversial during the racial unrest this past summer that followed the death of George Floyd. Some protesters said the statue depicted a slave kneeling before Lincoln, thereby offering a "reductive representation" of black people.

The original statue was paid for with funds donated by freed slaves, and Archer Alexander, the slave who was the model for the statue, expressed great pleasure with being so recognized. According to his biographer, William Greenleaf Eliot, when Alexander was informed he was to be represented next to Lincoln, he replied:

"Now I'se a white man! Now I'se free! I thank the good Lord that he has ‘livered me from all my troubles, and I'se lived to see this."

The statue currently sits in a South Boston storage facility.


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