A statue depicting a freed slave kneeling at the feet of President Abraham Lincoln was removed from its perch in Boston's Park Square this week.
Workers took down the statue, called The Emancipation Group, early Tuesday morning after Boston officials voted to dismantle the 141-year-old monument over the summer.
The bronze statue, a replica of one in Washington, aimed to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and honor President Lincoln, but critics have long deemed the display degrading and racist. In June, nationwide protests over racial injustice reignited calls for the statue’s removal, prompting the Boston Art Commission to vote unanimously in favor of taking it down.
“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,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement at the time. “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."
The statue is based on Archer Alexander, an escaped slave who helped the Union Army and later became the last man recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act. It was donated by Moses Kimball, a politician and founder of the Boston Museum, and installed in the park in 1879, according to the Mayor's office.
The statue depicts a shirtless Alexander rising to his feet from broken shackles while Lincoln towers over him, a hand outstretched, to symbolize emancipation. At its base, an inscription reads: "A race set free and the country at peace. Lincoln rests from his labors."
Boston activist Tory Bullock emerged as an ardent critic of the statue over the summer, spearheading the campaign for its removal. His online petition calling on the city to take down the statue has since garnered nearly 13,000 signatures.
"It brings a feeling of validation," Bullock told NBC Boston. "A feeling of, if we see something that we don't agree with, we can stand up and say something and a lot of people may listen and may force the process that wouldn't have happened otherwise."
City officials have promised to hold a public event to acknowledge the statue's history and will determine a new public setting for the statue, such as a museum.
“The decision for removal acknowledged the statue’s role in perpetuating harmful prejudices and obscuring the role of Black Americans in shaping the nation’s freedoms,” said a spokesperson for Walsh in a statement to NBC News.
“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.”