Black Americans Protect the Lincoln Emancipation Memorial
The wake of George Floyd’s death under police custody has not been kind to monuments that celebrate the lives of people who once owned slaves.
First, the Black Lives Matter protesters came for statues of Confederate generals. Then, they set a monument of George Washington on fire. Then, just this Friday, they set out to tear down the Lincoln Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C.
However, they were faced with strong opposition from groups of Black Americans who stood guard around the statue, which depicts former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln standing over a slave holding his own broken chains.
The Lincoln Emancipation Memorial: A History
According to a report by the New York Times, the bronze memorial dates back to 1876, and was built to commemorate the end of slavery.
After Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the Confederacy, no less than the freed slaves pooled together the funds for this memorial.
Still, the former slaves did not have a say in what the statue would depict.
To this day, the image of a shirtless slave who appears to be kneeling before Lincoln continues to be polarizing even within the African American community.
A Clash in Art Appreciation
One African American man named Tory Bullock launched an online petition for the statue’s removal.
“I’ve been watching this man on his knees since I was a kid,” he wrote. “It’s supposed to represent freedom but instead represents us still beneath someone else. I would always ask myself: ‘If he’s free, why is he still on his knees?’
Meanwhile, a Black woman by the name of Marcia Cole has vowed to make it her mission to protect the statue.
“Well, if you look at the figure, it’s easy to say ‘Well, he’s on his knees,’” she told Breitbart News. “But if you look closer, you will see this man is rising.”
“His chains are broken, his back is not bent. He’s on one knee in the rising position. His head is… his chin is up, his eyes are looking forward. He’s looking forward to a future of freedom. So you can say, ‘Oh, he’s on his knees,’ but he’s not on both knees. He is rising. His head’s not bloodied and bowed. He’s looking up. He’s a fine figure of a man, an unscored back. So he’s going for it.”
Cole once worked for the African American Civil War Memorial Museum. Now, she is joining dozens of other Black Americans in defending the Lincoln Memorial Statue from extremists who want to see it torn down.
Watch her full speech here.