‘Professional Agitator’ Calls for Removal of Boston Lincoln Emancipation Memorial

By Sculpture by Thomas Ball (1819–1911); I took this photograph. - Sculpture by Thomas Ball (1819–1911); I took this photograph., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10742897
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh (D) is considering removing the Emancipation Memorial, a statue of President Abraham Lincoln (R) and a freed slave that has stood in Park Square since 1879.

The statue, located near Boston’s Public Garden, is a replica of one in Washington, DC, designed by Thomas Ball of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The original statue was built with funds donated by former slaves to honor Lincoln after his assassination.

The memorial depicts Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared all slaves in the Confederate states “forever free,” next to a freed slave with broken shackles.

Wonderland editor Greg Cook explains further:

The freedman is an idealized portrait of Archer Alexander, who escaped from slavery in Missouri in 1863, and is often said to be the last man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act. At the bottom of the Boston statue it reads: “Emancipation.” The base is inscribed: “A race set free / and the country at peace / Lincoln / rests from his labors.”

“I think the exact same thing as I did when I was a kid, that it’s ridiculously awkward,” Tory Bullock of Dorchester told CBS Boston. “A lot of people look at it like it represents freedom, but for me as a black man, walking down here, I don’t see freedom.”

According to the news report, Bullock describes himself as a “professional agitator” who uses social media to create narratives about social justice issues.

He created a petition to have the Emancipation Memorial removed. Bullock wrote:

My name is Tory Bullock and I’ve been watching this man on his knees since I was a kid. It’s supposed to represent freedom but instead represents us still beneath someone else. I would always ask myself “If he’s free why is he still on his knees?” No kid should have to ask themselves that question anymore. If you feel the same then sign the petition!

He said most members of Boston’s black community agree with him about the statue.

“I don’t know maybe they should be standing equal to each other,” Bullock commented. “Maybe shaking hands, I don’t know maybe wearing clothes and not chains.”

Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards told CBS Boston, “It doesn’t make you feel good.”

“It’s OK to see a statue in modern eyes,” she added. “What was interpreted one way can be interpreted another way in the future.”

“The message is plain and simple, take it down,” Bullock insisted. “Hashtag, take it down. The bottom line, City of Boston, the people who look like me, we really don’t like this very much.”

Boston’s Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded earlier this week as rioters targeted statues and monuments during violent protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

According to the news report, Boston’s mayor is “willing to talk to the community about the future of the statue.”

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