Skip to Content

Boston removes statue of former slave kneeling before President Lincoln after 141 years

Andrew Cuomo

A Boston statue depicting a formerly enslaved man kneeling beneath President Abraham Lincoln was removed Tuesday morning, according to the mayor’s office.

The “Emancipation Group” statue has stood in Park Square since 1879. The Boston Art Commission voted to remove it in June after two public hearings and hundreds of letters and survey responses.

“We’re pleased to have taken it down this morning,” a spokeswoman for Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement to CNN.

“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 spokeswoman said. “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.”

Walsh’s office said that the statue was moved to a storage facility until a new location is selected.

The removal comes after months of a nationwide movement to remove symbols of the Confederacy and other statues that have been deemed racist by today’s standards.

The statue is a replica of one in Washington, DC, and it’s been controversial since its installation in 1876 for how it portrays the freed slave. It shows President Lincoln in a suit standing above a partially dressed former slave rising from broken shackles, according to the Boston Arts and Culture website.

The Boston replica was installed in 1879. It was donated by Moses Kimball, a politician and founder of the Boston Museum, according to the Arts and Culture website.

The statue was based on a photograph of Archer Alexander, a formerly enslaved man who “helped the Union Army before seeking freedom for himself and his family,” according to the city’s website. Alexander was recaptured several times under the Fugitive Slave Act.

The bronze statue was meant to celebrate the emancipation of slaves, but some perceive it as subjecting oneself to Lincoln or a display of white dominance, according to the Harvard Library.

While there’s always been criticism of the statue, it was a local petition started in June that renewed interested in its removal.

Boston area actor and activist Tory Bullock started the petition, according to the city’s website. It had more than 12,000 signatures in favor of the removal.

“It’s an amazing funeral, I’m here to provide a silent eulogy for this piece of artwork that’s been here for 141 years,” Bullock told CNN affiliate WBZ as the statue was removed.

“I’m proud, I’m Black and I’m young,” Bullock said. “This image has been doing a lot of disservice to African Americans in Boston and now it stops.”

A series of virtual panel discussions and short-term art installations this winter will look at “examining and reimagining our cultural symbols, public art, and histories,” the mayor’s spokeswoman said.

The Boston Art Commission is looking for ideas on where to move the statue. People can submit ideas or feedback here.

Article Topic Follows: US & World

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo



KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content