After artist-activist Tory Bullock successfully filed a petition to remove the "Emancipation Group" statue, the city of Boston has finally followed through.
Until Tuesday morning this week, a statue of former President Abraham Lincoln with a slave kneeling before him was located in Park Square in Boston, Massachusetts. The city's Mayor announced that the "Emancipation Group" statue was finally removed, CNN reports. The decision to do so was made earlier this year in June; the Boston Art Commission put it to a vote following two public hearings and hundreds of letters and survey responses. The statue, erected in 1879, has always been controversial but received particular backlash during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
#BREAKING:— Peter Wilson (@PetesWire) December 29, 2020
The "Emancipation Group" statue was slated to be removed "by the end of 2020" by the #Boston Art Commission
The decision "acknowledged the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s freedoms." pic.twitter.com/ixA6QnC7dP
A spokeswoman for Mayor Marty Walsh affirmed in a statement, "We're pleased to have taken it down this morning. As expressed by so many during the public process this year, we fully agree that the statue should be relocated to a new publicly accessible location where its history and context can be better explained. The decision for removal acknowledges the statue's role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation's fight for freedom." The statue, a replica of one in Washington, DC, has temporarily been moved to a storage facility until a new location is selected, pending weather and contractor availability.
The city has removed the "Emancipation Group" statue from its perch in Boston's Park Square: https://t.co/Y5yrt2Wj7Z— WBUR (@WBUR) December 30, 2020
Though President Lincoln played an important role in the struggle for civil rights, the statue has received immense criticism for how it depicts the freed slave. It displays the former President in a suit standing above a former slave, who is partially dressed, rising from broken shackles. The statue was modeled after a photograph of Archer Alexander, a formerly enslaved man who allegedly helped the Union Army before seeking freedom for himself and his family. Unfortunately, Alexander was recaptured several times under the Fugitive Slave Act. Although the statue is intended as a celebration of the emancipation of slaves, many believe that it in fact displays Lincoln's White dominance.
A petition to remove the statue from Park Square was finally circulated around the city in June. More than 12,000 people came together to sign the petition and finally have the statue removed. The petition was launched by Tory Bullock, an artist, and activist based in Boston. "It's an amazing funeral," he declared as the statue was removed. "I'm here to provide a silent eulogy for this piece of artwork that's been here for 141 years. I'm proud, I'm Black, and I'm young. This image has been doing a lot of disservice to African Americans in Boston and now it stops."
Emancipation Group Statue was removed this morning.— BostonTweet (@BostonTweet) December 29, 2020
Back in June Tory Bullock (@ToryShiloh) started an online petition to remove the statue, which gathered thousands of supporters. Boston Art Commission voted unanimously to take it down.
Now, a series of virtual panel discussions and short-term art installations will be held this winter in order to look at "examining and reimagining our cultural symbols, public art, and histories," Mayor Walsh's spokeswoman shared. If you would like to submit ideas about where to move the controversial statue, you can submit ideas or feedback to the Boston Art Commission and Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. You can submit written or video feedback. If you are feeling especially creative, you can even share an illustration of your ideas. To do so, click here.