BOSTON (CBS) – The controversial Emancipation Group Memorial in Boston’s Park Square was removed Tuesday morning. The statue depicts a formerly enslaved Black man kneeling before President Abraham Lincoln.
Critics said the memorial was racist and demeaning. Dorchester native and social media influencer Tory Bullock started a petition to remove the sculpture earlier this year. It quickly racked up thousands of signatures and the Boston Art Commission voted unanimously in June to have it taken down.
“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 WBZ-TV Tuesday as the statue was hauled away on a flatbed truck.
“I’m proud, I’m Black, and I’m young. This image has been doing a lot of disservice to African-Americans in Boston and now it stops.”
“We’re pleased to have taken it down this morning,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“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 statue is being stored in a controlled storage facility in South Boston until a new location is determined.”
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.
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, according to the Commission.
Mark Pasnik, the Chair of the Boston Art Commission, said they hope to have new art work in Park Square in the future.
“We’re eager to continue the public conversation that’s underway, and we’ll soon begin a series of virtual panel discussions and short-term art installations examining and reimagining our cultural symbols, public art, and histories,” Walsh said.