Today I learned that a statue depicting a freed Black man kneeling before President Abraham Lincoln stood in Boston since 1879, further proving that America has had a white savior complex since before any of us were born.
According to NBC Boston, the statue, a replica of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C., was finally taken down this week after officials voted to remove it over the summer. The vote came after a petition to remove the statue garnered thousands of signatures. Tory Bullock, a Boston native and the creator of the petition, told NBC Boston that the statue had bothered him since he was a child, with the question “If he’s free, why is he still on his knees?” often coming to mind when he saw it.
I can’t even front, it’s a weird fucking statue. Now, I’m not going to use this time to dunk on Lincoln. That’s mainly due to having a public school education and not knowing much about the man beyond issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and apparently scoring four times in Gettysburg. I will, however, talk shit about the choices made by whoever designed this statue.
Off jump, the fact that the man is allegedly free but is still kneeling before a white man is just a bad look. There’s no way around it. The badness of it all is only compounded by Lincoln’s posture and facial expression. He looks almost annoyed, as though he’s saying “Yeah yeah, you’re free, whatever, now can I go home?”
Also, he has one hand on what I can only imagine is the Emancipation Proclamation and another held over the freedman, as though he’s casting some sort of freedom enchantment.
While I would’ve much rather watched Abraham Lincoln: Dark Magician over Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it’s still a weird-ass look for the 16th U.S. president.
It wasn’t lost on Boston officials that people felt some kind of way about the monument. The statue’s depiction of the freedman has been criticized since it was first installed 151 years ago, with the petition basically just hammering home the message. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) issued a statement in support of the move.
“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,” Walsh wrote. “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.”
A permanent sign is expected to go up explaining the history of what used to stand in the statue’s area.