The explanation for why Abraham Lincoln, the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, has suddenly become persona non grata vary depending on which cancel culturist you ask. Some will tell you the problem isn’t that Lincoln wasn’t a friend to the slaves but that he was indifferent to the plight of the American Indian. Others will tell you — and with a straight face — that he failed to demonstrate that “black lives mattered to him.”
Whatever reason might be given for Lincoln’s fall from grace, a memorial to him that has stood in Boston’s Park Square since 1876 was just canceled. The battle over the statue, which has been raging since June, is not rooted in Honest Abe’s likeness but in the figure at his feet: A nearly naked black man in shackles kneels before the president who, with a dramatic sweep of his arm, sets the man free.
At least that is what the sculptor, Thomas Ball, had in mind. Bostonian Tory Bullock, who collected 12,000 signatures on a petition calling for the removal of the statue, sees “submissiveness.” “It represents: ‘Know your place, because that’s where you belong,’” he told Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.
Bullock also had specific ideas of where the sculpture belonged: namely anywhere else. This week he got his wish.
“This is a great opportunity to get some local black artists involved in the creation of [a new] statue, to come up with something new that represents equality,” Bullock said back in June. But that totally misses the point of why the statue was erected in the first place: to learn from mistakes of the past. How do you communicate that message to schoolchildren if the art in the public square shows the battle won?