BOSTON (CBS) – When the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End was beheaded this week, the city decided to remove it while leaders weigh its historic meaning. Now the Mayor’s office is considering what to do with the Emancipation Memorial in Boston’s Park Square.

The statue sits a block away from Boston’s Public Garden, nestled between the Park Plaza Hotel and the Legal Seafood restaurant. It’s a replica of the original statue in Washington, DC designed by Charlestown native Thomas Ball. It was built almost entirely with funds donated by former slaves.

It’s a statue that has bothered Dorchester native Tory Bullock since he was a kid. “I think the exact same thing as I did when I was a kid, that it’s ridiculously awkward,” he explained.

Tory Bullock stands near the Emancipation Memorial in Boston (WBZ-TV)

The statue depicts a towering Abraham Lincoln standing next to a freed slave kneeling at his feet with shackles on his wrists. It is sometimes called the Freedman’s Memorial. “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,” Bullock said.

We first introduced you to Tory last fall. He uses a camera and social media to bring awareness to social issues, calling himself a professional agitator.

His most recent post asks Boston’s Black community how they fell about the statue. When you read the comments, most agree with Tory.

The Emancipation Memorial in Park Square in Boston. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

“I don’t know maybe they should be standing equal to each other,” Tory said looking up at the statue. “Maybe shaking hands, I don’t know maybe wearing clothes and not chains,” he said describing the shirtless and shoe-less slave.

“It doesn’t make you feel good,” said Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards. Edwards, of East Boston told us she understands the artist’s goal was probably to lift people up, but she says for people who see it as a symbol of oppression, the message is lost. “It’s OK to see a statue in modern eyes. What was interpreted one way can be interpreted another way in the future,” she said.

We talked to a few people in the area. Two white men told us it should be taken down. But a man of color from Dorchester had to take a long look at the piece. “If it’s a sign of submission, I would be against it,” he said. “But if it’s a sign of conversation or appreciation or acknowledgement, that’s something else.”

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

The Mayor’s office told us he is willing to talk to the community about the future of the statue. He also said he’s interested in potentially recommissioning it into something that recognizes equality. Since the statue is a memorial, it falls under the Arts Commission, so the City is looking at what that process might entail.

Lisa Hughes

Comments (20)
  1. It is a work of art. It is a bronze reproduction of a Charlestown native’s work. Commissioned by and paid for free men of color in 1876. The reproduction ,given to the people that come in and through Boston considering the location in 1901 at a railroad terminus. As in any artists work, it is subject to interpretation. I do think the engraving on the base does help though. EMANCIPATION spelled out in letters so big as to be easily read. I think that in itself helps me interpret the statement Thomas Ball was making in 1876. Do we have the right in 2020 to reinterpret the meaning to anything other than what was intended?

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      Yes, I do see. Emancipation is always depicted by chains.

  2. Vincent Vega says:

    I always thought it was dumb. very poorly designed and tasteless

  3. mathbuster26 says:

    Whatever was meant when it was created, it evokes the wrong message today. I didn’t like it when I walked past it years ago. It skeeves me out. If it had Lincoln bring down an ax on the chains, it would be better. But as is? It serves as a reminder that Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist. He only emancipated the slaves as a tool to win the Civil War. He wrote several times that while he was morally opposed to slavery, he didn’t know what to do about it during the “current political climate.” It needs to be replaced with, at the very least, a more positive message.

    1. Marilyn Hilliard says:

      Thank you for that reasonable and lucid response! Mr. Ball depicted Lincoln as if he was looking for praise from an audience rather than even acknowledging that there was a half-clothed person at his feet.

  4. Tony says:

    Lincoln was not just some “white dude”, as he was called in other published comments by Tory Bullock. It is important that we recognize the enormous work of Lincoln in the first major step in Black civil rights via Emancipation — work that cost him his life. It’s worth remembering that especially on Juneteenth. Most people, who understand and read history, would interpret this statue as Lincoln making it possible for a people to “rise up”. As a social media “influencer” Tory’s time would be better spent helping people understand why this statue honors Black people and the history of those who fought and died to end slavery. This can;t be reduced to some “feeling” that he has about the statue.

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      Lincoln might have been a great man – or he might have just been a smart politician. He wasn’t an abolitionist. Although he was morally opposed to slavery, he didn’t feel the need to do anything about it until it became a tool to win the Civil War.
      “There was one big problem [with slavery]: It was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. The nation’s founding fathers, who also struggled with how to address slavery, did not explicitly write the word “slavery” in the Constitution, but they did include key clauses protecting the institution, including a fugitive slave clause and the three-fifths clause, which allowed Southern states to count slaves for the purposes of representation in the federal government. In a three-hour speech in Peoria, Illinois, in the fall of 1854, Lincoln presented more clearly than ever his moral, legal and economic opposition to slavery—and then admitted he didn’t know exactly what should be done about it within the current political system.

      Abolitionists, by contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed slaves should be incorporated as equal members of society. They didn’t care about working within the existing political system, or under the Constitution, which they saw as unjustly protecting slavery and slave owners. Leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell,” and went so far as to burn a copy at a Massachusetts rally in 1854.

      Though Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause, he did not count himself among them. Only with emancipation, and with his support of the eventual 13th Amendment, would Lincoln finally win over the most committed abolitionists.” – https://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation

  5. Madeline Borgasano Marino says:

    If the City of Boston agrees to take that statue away. we might as well give up. The stupid demands will never stop. I was Born in Boston and was always proud to say it. Not so much anymore. I am ashamed of the behavior of these people. Who are they? Not the Bostonians I knew. STOP THE MADNESS.

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      Well, gosh darlin’, as long as you feel comfortable. Never mind how anyone else feels. Your privilege is showing.

      1. Tim Westfeld says:

        So…their feelings don’t matter *because* someone else’s do? The “interpretation” of actual slaves who paid for it and dedicated it doesn’t matter? Shouldn’t we be able to inform ourselves and not listen to every ‘vibe’ we get? It’s not a perfect stature by someone’s standard, but to others it would be sad to see it torn down? Whose distress is more valuable?

  6. M. Gauntt says:

    Maybe those thinking of removing the statue might ponder this quote:

    As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy
    — Abraham Lincoln

  7. Mark Puglisi says:

    Nothing will change for anyone who doesn’t want to work. This is holding out the carrot a little longer. What happens when you do not allow conservative citizens to speak? They become enraged. Nov 3rd will be a giant day for the psychiatric pharmaceutical industry.

  8. Larry Levesque says:

    The original emancipation monument in D.C. was paid for solely by former slaves and Frederick Douglass spoke as the keynote speaker at the dedication service on April 14, 1876 . . . smh .

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      Ok. And you think and feel the exact same way as your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, do you? You should not get to think and feel for yourself? smh

  9. Leo Berlo says:

    They have to eliminate Mosque’s in Boston too for what they represent, because Muslim Slave trading is still going on and they were the Principal Slave traders fo the 400,000 that were sent to North America. It is believed that 12 Million ! did not survive the trans Saharan Trek and the brutality was horrendous, all men were castrated, women used as Concubines and Babies born of Rape were Killed.

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      Wow. That is such a racist and false syllogism that I’m just staggered.
      A) Mosques are a place of worship (just like a church, cathedral, temple, etc.)
      B) Not all Muslims practice slavery (Just like not all white people get angry enough about skin color to commit mass murder in a church)
      C) Most Muslims I know, and I know a few and have done for 50 years or so) would like the practice of hereditary slavery to end. The only place this still exist is Mauritania and the African Union has reprimanded Mauritania for allowing the widespread practice of hereditary slavery and called for it to end.
      D) Educate yourself because right now you’re spewing racist garbage, most of which is simply not upheld by facts.

  10. Leo Berlo says:

    How predictable , haven’t you prostrated yourself enough? of course you are staggered (by facts) Oh everyone look at me I’m not a Racist, People like you are the problem and when I am called a racist its a Badge of honor when dealing with nitwits like you , the true “Racists. Its only going on in ” Mauritania” My Gorgeous (and much younger)
    Moroccan Wife from Safi, I think knows better than you what the Cultures History was and is. What would we do without Saviors like you?

    1. mathbuster26 says:

      You think standing up for the rights of others, my friends, my family, my students, is prostrating myself? No, you’re not racist. How could you be? You have a good little Moroccan wife! See my non-racism! I have a PoC as a wife! I’ve been standing up for my friends against bullies like you since I was 9 and someone called my best friend the n-word. I’ve examine my unconscious biases and hate it when I come across a new one that I have yet to root out. You think you’re little rant has excavated your and proved you’re not a racist. But you dug your hole wider and deeper! Prostrated! My ”gorgeous and much younger Moroccan wife!“ (I’ll bet she’s a good little stay-a-at-home mail order bride! There as an arm ornament to assuage your brittle male ego. Something akin to the slavery you purport to hate. I’ll bet she’s smarter than you, too!) But you …. Nope. Sorry. I’ll shut up. I’m breaking my own rule. I don’t argue with the willfully stupid. It’s an exercise in futility.

      1. Leo Berlo says:

        P.S. Didn’t get what “POC” meant , I had to ask people and look online and apparently it is meant to be ‘People of Color’ I’m European / Caucasian (but consider myself American, a Native American since I was born here , and also because I am a Mongrel) so being a Person of the most varied and truly “diverse” people I assumed I was a POC , its a term that is part of the lexicon of Race obsessed people & apologists and meant to diminish & deride the others. the reference to my Wife had nothing to do with that, it went over your head because you are so race “conscious” it was of her knowledge of Slavery in North Africa & the Middle East and her being a Muslim. also Most North Africans are considered Caucasian as are those from the Middle East. There are some things in Her Country & Culture from the past they dont like especially when put in Modern times , and there were times in the past when it was simply the Norm where nearly EVERY Nation & People did the same and they learn a better way., they acknowledge it and dont hide from it, but they Certainly dont apologize for it.

  11. Leo Berlo says:

    Please you standing up for the Rights of others?? You are obviously a feminist so that explains much like your dementedness towards Men & society and Jealousy towards real & quality Women, and you are self loathing Virtue Signaler with the typical Masochistic streak, “Unconscious bias” says what you are about ! and again shows how little you know about the World, you will not find mail order Brides from Morocco, She speaks 3 Languages , has a Degree in Psychology and is a Teir 3 Esthetician and is Artistically gifted and Skilled at Her Career pursued me, So she is smart and has good taste , but you could never stand up to me , anyhow I grew up in the worst black ghettos in Boston (Mattpan & North Dorchester) I may follow up wit a more comprehensive reply with the Facts about blacks in America and the criminality. that normal people know.

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