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Fri, 04.14.1876

The Emancipation Memorial is Erected

*On this date in 1876, The Emancipation Memorial was erected. Also known as the Freedman's Memorial, it is a monument in Lincoln Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was sometimes referred to as the "Lincoln Memorial" before the more prominent so-named memorial was dedicated in 1922. 

Designed and sculpted by Thomas Ball and erected in 1876, the monument depicts Abraham Lincoln holding a copy of his Emancipation Proclamation freeing a Black male slave modeled on Archer Alexander. The ex-slave is depicted on one knee, about to stand up, with one fist clenched, shirtless and broken shackles at the president's feet. The Emancipation Memorial statue was funded by the wages of freed slaves.

The statue originally faced west towards the U.S. Capitol until it was rotated east in 1974 to face the newly erected Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial. The statue is a contributing monument to the Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C. on the National Register of Historic Places.          


Rodney Young of American University wrote that: If there is one slavery monument whose origins are highly political, the Freedman's memorial is it. The development process for this memorial started immediately after Abraham Lincoln's assassination and ended, appropriately enough, near the end of Reconstruction in 1876. In many ways, it exemplified and reflected the hopes, dreams, striving, and ultimate failures of reconstruction.

2020 Protests       

On June 23, 2020, DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton announced plans to introduce legislation to remove the memorial. That same day, protesters on site vowed to dismantle the statue on June 25, at 7:00 p.m. local time. A barrier fence was installed around the memorial to protect it from vandalism, which was later removed.


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