Hundreds of protesters in Washington D.C. gathered again this week to call for the removal of a memorial statue of Abraham Lincoln that celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation.
From the NY Times:
As communities across the country reconsider statues and monuments of historical figures, protesters in Washington, D.C., are increasing calls to remove the Emancipation Memorial, a statue of a freed slave crouching before President Abraham Lincoln, after attempts in the past week to tear it down have intensified the debate over its value.
The bronze memorial in Lincoln Park dates back to 1876 and was intended to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order signed by Lincoln that ended slavery in the Confederacy. Though the funds for the memorial were raised by freed slaves, they did not have a say in what it would depict. It has long drawn controversy for the position of the freed slave at the feet of Lincoln, whose left hand hovers above the slave’s shirtless back.
The push to remove the statue comes amid a broader campaign unfolding across the country to remove or topple statues and monuments that are seen by some as honoring racist historical figures. Discussions around the Emancipation Memorial, however, have proved to be more thorny, with everyone from local residents to President Trump debating what the interaction between the two figures was intended to convey.
“The meaning is degrading,” said Marcus Goodwin, a candidate for the District of Columbia Council. “To see my ancestors at the feet of Lincoln — it’s not imagery that inspires African-Americans to see themselves as equal in this society.”
Mr. Goodwin has led calls for the memorial, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, to be taken down through a legal process, including a petition that prompted Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat of the District of Columbia, to announce she will introduce legislation before the House of Representatives to remove the memorial.
“The statue fails to note in any way how enslaved African-Americans pushed for their own emancipation,” Ms. Norton said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is time it was placed in a museum.”
For Marcia E. Cole, those criticizing the memorial are ignoring its context, one that she has tried to defend in heated conversations with protesters at Lincoln Park.
“He’s on one knee, clearly in the act of rising,” Ms. Cole said of the freed slave depicted in the memorial. “He’s seizing his own agency.”
Some critics of the memorial, impatient with the lack of a response from government officials over the years, announced their intention in the past week to take matters into their own hands and tear it down.
“When I look at that statue, I’m reminded my freedom and my liberation is only dictated by white peoples’ terms,” said Glenn Foster, 20, who formed The Freedom Neighborhood, a local group that has organized efforts to topple the memorial. “We’re trying to let the government know we’re not going to wait any longer for our freedom to happen.”
Word spread quickly of the group’s intentions, and on Friday, supporters of the statue showed up alongside those prepared to topple it, as well as those who wanted to wait for the legal process to play out.
“Things have gone from zero to 100 in a matter of days,” said Ms. Cole, who often portrays Charlotte Scott, the African-American woman who raised funds for the memorial after Lincoln’s assassination, in re-enactments and other events organized by a group associated with the African-American Civil War Museum. Scott is remembered in a plaque below the memorial.
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