A New Statue Of Lincoln Will Adequately Honor Him Alongside Black AmericansRoundup
tags: Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, African American history, memorials, emancipation, monuments, public history
Frank Smith is founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum.
On Jan. 1, 1863, a pensive President Abraham Lincoln sat down and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a moment that represented the crowning achievement of his presidency. The Emancipation Proclamation enabled Blacks to join the Union Army to fight for their freedom and placed Lincoln on the side of the angels.
Historians have opined that, despite all other actions during that season, it was Lincoln’s signing of this executive order that led to the legal end of slavery in Confederate states and ultimately set in motion the ratification of the 13th Amendment that ended the institution of slavery in the United States. That moment also represented the beginning of a new level of warfare for freedom, justice and equality in this country — a struggle in which we remain enthralled.
Amid the still painful issues of that struggle, which include police brutality, economic inequality and systemic racism, a question has repeatedly risen concerning the proper manner in which to honor Lincoln for his leadership. One of those debates is whether to remove the Emancipation Memorial in D.C.’s Lincoln Park, a statue of Lincoln standing by a formerly enslaved man who is crouched in broken chains. Is he rising in power? Or is he stooped over in degradation?
While that debate has its place, we believe an undoubtedly proper tribute to the noble legacy of Lincoln is underway in another part of the city — at the African American Civil War Memorial. Here, we are busy putting all of this history into context. Our $8 million Grimke building expansion project will include the unveiling of a six-foot bronze statue of Lincoln, frozen in time at the historic moment that he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
That statue will place Lincoln in appropriate context as it positions him directly across the street facing the “Spirit of Freedom” monument — our memorial honoring the 209,145 United States Colored Troops who, freed from enslavement, took up arms for freedom — and the Wall of Honor listing each of their names.
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