Norton Kicks Off Black History Month Bill Series, Introduces Bill Removing Emancipation Statue from Lincoln Park

Feb 18, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today kicked off her Black History Month bill series by reintroducing her bill that would remove the Emancipation Statue from Lincoln Park in the District of Columbia, a federal park, citing its problematic depiction of the fight to achieve emancipation. The statue would be placed in a museum with an explanation of its origin and meaning. This bill is the first in a series of statue and memorial removal bills Norton is introducing during Black History Month. 

“Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for this statue, the design and sculpting process was done without their input or participation in any way, and it shows,” Norton said. “The statue fails to note how enslaved African Americans pressed for their own emancipation. Understandably, they were only recently liberated from slavery and were grateful for any recognition of their freedom. However, in his keynote address at the unveiling of the statue, Frederick Douglass pointedly did not praise the statue, and, indeed, in private remarks, went as far as to say, “it showed the negro on his knee when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom. 

At the end of last year, Boston removed its replica of the statue and plans to place it in a publicly accessible location where it can be better contextualized. It is time for Congress to place the original statue in a museum, too.” 

The Emancipation Statue was dedicated on April 14, 1876, the 11th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. The statue originally faced the Capitol, with a direct line of vision to the nation’s most powerful building. But when a statue celebrating African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune was erected in the eastern half of Lincoln Park, in 1974, the Emancipation Statue was rotated 180 degrees so the two statues would face each other.