Boston to remove statue depicting freed slave kneeling before Lincoln

BOSTON — The Boston Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the Emancipation Memorial in Park Square on Tuesday night.

The motion called for bringing in an art conservator “to document, recommend how the bronze statue is removed, supervise its removal and placement into temporary storage.”

It also includes commissioning detailed documentation of the memorial into Commission archives.

The statue at Park Square is a copy of the original Emancipation Memorial at Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. That statue was designed by Charlestown, Massachusetts native Thomas Ball and dedicated in 1876.

The bronze statue was designed to memorialize the emancipation of slaves after the Civil War. It shows President Abraham Lincoln standing and holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation with one hand, while holding his other hand over a freed African American slave, who is shirtless, with broken shackles and kneeling at the president’s feet.

Calls have intensified for the removal of the Emancipation Memorial statues in recent weeks as the nation confronts racial injustice.

“As we continue our work to make Boston a more equitable and just city, it’s important that we look at the stories being told by the public art in all of our neighborhoods,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement supporting the commission’s decision. “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,” Walsh said.

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.”

But Blacks weren’t part of the design process, and the memorial’s central visual takeaway — a Black man kneeling before his white savior — has had people cringing for years.

Protesters have vowed to tear down the original statue in Washington, which has been protected by National Guard troops guarding it and other monuments.

With Associated Press reports

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