Lincoln Statue Comes Down in Boston, Remains in Lincoln Park

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The Emancipation Monument is pictured through chain link fencing as fireworks go off in the background in Lincoln Park, July 4, 2020.

A statue of Lincoln standing over a bent slave was removed Tuesday, Dec. 29 from Boston’s Park Square. But the orginial statue, the ‘Emancipation Monument’, remains in Lincoln Park where it was dedicated in 1876, despite a petition for its removal and tremendous contraversy over the summer, including threats to pull it down.

The Boston statue is a recasting of the original on Capitol Hill and was donated to Boston in 1879. This past summer, the Boston Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the statue “by the end of the year”, largely in reponse to a petition circulated by artist Tony Bullock that was signed by more than 12,000 people. The statue came down with little fanfare on Tuesday.

The DC statue sits on National Park Service (NPS) land and so removal requires an act of Congress. In June, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) announced she would introduce legislation for its removal.

The statue has recently been the site of elevated discussion, with many District residents calling for its removal, saying the statue and in particular, the representation of the black man as kneeling, demeans black people. In June, then Candidate for At-Large Council Marcus Goodwin started a petition for its removal which amassed more than 10,000 signatures.

The Freedom Neighborhood Founder Glann Foster speaks at a protest held by the organization in front of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, June 23, 2020.

Over the summer, the statue became a flashpoint for contraversy. Groups converged on the site to advocate for the statue to remain, for its removal and for Lincoln Park as a whole to become the site of President Donald Trump’s proposed ‘Garden of Heroes.’ One group even threatened to tear the statue down.

On June 19, Emancipation Day in DC, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate general Albert Pike in Judiciary Square and attempted to pull down a monument of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.

Workers place barriers around the Emancipation Monument in Lincoln Park, June 25, 2020.

To protect the monuments NPS fenced the monument as well as the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune on the other side of the park. The fencing remained in place from June 25 to Sept. 16.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), charged with maintaining the park, the monument was entirely paid for by former slaves as a way of paying homage to Lincoln after he was assassinated in 1865. However, planning was controlled by the white-run post-war relief agency, the Western Sanitary Commission of St. Louis.

While attending the 1876 dedication ceremony, Frederick Douglass was reported to have said that the statue “showed the Negro on his knee when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom.”