Why Was the Emancipation Memorial Statue in Boston Removed?

By David J. Kent

Washington D.C.

Friday, February 19, 2021



As part of my series on Confederate monuments I recently examined why the Robert E. Lee statue was removed from statuary hall in the Capitol. Not long after, the Emancipation Memorial featuring Abraham Lincoln was removed from a park in Boston. While not a Confederate monument, the Emancipation Memorial removal opens up a similar question: Why was it removed?


If you haven’t read the previous three post on Confederate monuments, the context begins with “The Rational Case for Removing Confederate Monuments.” Two subsequent posts looked at whether such removal “erases history” and whether “added context” was possible.


The Emancipation Memorial in Boston is a copy of the original statue by sculptor Thomas Ball erected in 1876 in what is now Lincoln Park, Washington, DC. The Lincoln Group of DC was involved in two teach-ins during the summer after the memorial was targeted by protesters hoping to tear it down. The DC statue currently remains in place. Prior to the teach-ins, in June of 2020, the Boston Arts Commission voted to remove the statue and place it in storage until some appropriate location capable of providing relevant context can be found. They agreed to have the statue removed before the end of the year, and that occurred in orderly fashion on December 27, 2020. The stated reasons were because of “the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s freedoms.”


For those not familiar with the statue itself, it was designed to commemorate the emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln that called for enslaved people to be “henceforward and forever free.” An admirable action. So what is the problem?


I wrote about this in a previous post:


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