A statue of a freed slave appearing to kneel before former President Abraham Lincoln in Boston was removed Tuesday morning, the Associated Press reports via The New York Post.
Early Tuesday, workers took down the Emancipation Memorial, known also as the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, from a park near Boston Common where it had been since 1879.
Back in late June, after criticism toward the design of the bronze statue amid the renewed national discussion around racism and police brutality this past summer, city officials had agreed to remove the memorial. Earlier that month, Mayor Marty Walsh (D) recognized that the statue made both fellow Bostonians and visitors “uncomfortable,” the AP notes.
The statue of Lincoln and the freed slave is a copy of a monument that was put up in Washington, DC three years prior. Because Boston was home to the statue’s creator, Thomas Ball, the statue was erected there.
While freed Black people funded the original memorial in the nation’s capital, white politician and circus showman Moses Kimball bankrolled the copy in Boston. On both memorials, the inscription reads: “A race set free and the country at peace. Lincoln rests from his labors.”
Created to commemorate the freeing of slaves in the United States, the statue was based on an escaped slave named Archer Alexander, who assisted the Union Army and was the last Black man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
There have been differing interpretations as to the exact meaning and message of the now-removed memorial. While some people perceived the shirtless freedman as rising to his feet as he shakes off the broken shackles around his wrists, others saw him as kneeling before Lincoln, his white emancipator, the AP explains.
Prior to Tuesday’s removal of the statue, over 12,000 individuals had signed a petition urging it be taken down and the public arts commission of Boston voted unanimously for its removal. The statue was to be held in storage until the city determines whether or not to exhibit it in a museum, the AP reports.
“The decision for removal acknowledged the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s freedoms,” the commission said in a statement posted on its website.
Since at least 2018, the controversial statue had occupied the city’s mind. That year, Boston commenced an extensive review into if public sculptures, monuments, and other artworks reflected the city’s diversity and didn’t offend communities of color, according to the AP. The arts commission said it was paying extra attention to works with “problematic histories.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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In a turn of events, the House of Representatives made history on Friday with a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), marking the first such expulsion in over two decades. A moment fraught with gravity unfolded as Speaker Mike Johnson wielded his gavel to formalize Santos’ removal, setting a precedent in congressional annals.
Santos, indicted on 23 counts related to wire fraud, identity theft, and other charges, has not faced conviction but stands accused of misusing campaign funds for opulent purchases. The bipartisan vote, tallying 311 to 114, signaled robust support for expulsion, with a marginally higher number of Republicans opting to retain Santos.
Questions loomed as Speaker Johnson left the chamber, his silence leaving the fate of the ongoing government spending battle uncertain. According to reports from Fox News, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer emphasized the non-partisan nature of the decision, asserting that members concluded Santos had tarnished the House’s reputation and was unfit for representation.
Within the GOP, conflicting opinions emerged, with Rep. Darrell Issa arguing against expulsion, citing the presumption of innocence. The tight-lipped stance of the House Ethics Committee played a pivotal role in the deliberations.
Conversely, members of the New York Republican delegation, led by Rep. Marc Molinaro, asserted Santos’ commission of crimes, justifying expulsion based on a comprehensive investigation.
Santos himself predicted the outcome in an exclusive morning interview on “FOX & Friends.” This vote not only underlines the House’s rare use of expulsion powers but also sets a critical precedent in handling members facing severe legal challenges.
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