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We Need to Replace the Emancipation Statue

On Tuesday, June 23, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that she’ll be introducing federal legislation to remove the Emancipation Statue from Lincoln Park, which is part of the federal National Park Service and not under control of the local DC government.

I’ve heard from several residents that share concerns about this statue’s depiction of a Black man kneeling before President Lincoln. I share her and many neighbors’ concerns that this statue does not do justice to enslaved African Americans’ own contributions to emancipation and it’s time for a change. Public art and public spaces should bring us together and lift us up, not divide and degrade.

The history of this monument – dedicated in 1876 with Frederick Douglass as one of the keynote speakers – has needed context to this site and is much different from the recently toppled Albert Pike statue. I found a recent posting from the Ford’s Theater investigative blog a useful article to think through what the statue represents, how it can be interpreted, and what we want to envision differently. You can read it here: https://www.fords.org/…/investigating-washington-d-c-s-ema…/

We can do better, and together with Congresswoman Norton, I have asked the National Park Service to start the process of replacing the existing statue with art more reflective of enslaved persons’ contributions to emancipation, and of Lincoln’s enduring legacy. He called on us to heed the better angels of our nature and I hope we can do so here by choosing a path forward that celebrates our shared humanity and ensures everyone feels welcome and respected in this beloved public space that bears his name.

Charles Allen (D) is the Councilmember representing Ward 6. You can reach him via email at callen@dccouncil.us, or visit www.charlesallenward6.com

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