Thomas Ball’s Emancipation Group in Park Square, Boston. Photo: New York Public Square.

Statue of Lincoln and Formerly Enslaved Man Removed From Boston’s Park Square

After a petition initiated by artist Tory Bullock calling for Thomas Ball’s Emancipation Group to be replaced garnered more than twelve thousand signatures, city authorities removed the monument from Boston’s Park Square, where it has stood since 1879. The original sculpture from which it was recast, Ball’s 1876 Freedmen’s Memorial still stands in Washington, DC’s Lincoln Park, where, like the Lincoln Monument itself, it remains a topic of debate.

The bronze statue, which depicts a scantily-clad Black man in broken shackles seeming to rise from kneeling before a fully dressed and standing Abraham Lincoln, was meant to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States following the Civil War. Like many historical monuments across the US, the statue has been seen in a new light by many in the wake of the May police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’ve been watching this man on his knees since I was a kid,” wrote Bullock in the petition. “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.”

The Boston Art Commission voted to remove the statue, which was donated to the city by politician Moses Kimball, a founder of the Boston Museum. Commission chair Mark Pasnik told local press that the statue would be replaced with new works and that plans for “a series of virtual panel discussions and short-term art installations examining and reimagining our cultural symbols, public art, and histories” are afoot.

“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,” a spokesperson for Boston mayor Marty Walsh told CNN.