BOSTON (CBS) — The Emancipation Group statue in Park Square will be removed. The Boston Art Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night for the controversial memorial’s removal.
“As we continue our work to make Boston a more equitable and just city, it’s important that we look at the stories being told by the public art in all of our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Walsh in a statment. “After engaging in a public process, it’s clear that residents and visitors to Boston have been uncomfortable with this statue, and its reductive representation of the Black man’s role in the abolitionist movement. I fully support the Boston Art Commission’s decision for removal and thank them for their work.”
The Commission plans to add detailed documentation of the statue to its archives, including photos, a 3D scan, and history of the piece and the process the Commission took to remove it.
Before it is removed, the Commission will put a temporary sign at the site, and then a permanent sign after the statue’s removal.
The Emancipation Group, which is a replica of a statue in Washington D.C., was installed in 1879. It depicts Abraham Lincoln standing over Archer Alexander who is kneeling. Alexander was a Black man who helped the Union Army, escaped slavery, and was recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act, accounting to the Commission. An inscription on the statue says “A race set free/ and the country at peace / Lincoln / Rests from his labors.”
A removal date has not yet been decided.
The commission will also “determine how to re-contextualize the existing statue in a new publicly accessible setting.”
The public shared their opinions through a survey.
“Public art is storytelling at the street level. As such, the imagery should strike the heart and engage the mind,” said Ekua Holmes, Vice-Chair of the Boston Art Commission in a statement. “What I heard today is that it hurts to look at this piece, and in the Boston landscape we should not have works that bring shame to any groups of people, not only in Boston but across the entire United States.”