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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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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