Norton to Introduce Legislation Removing Emancipation Statue from Lincoln Park

Jun 23, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced today that she will introduce legislation to 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.

“You will soon see my bill to remove this problematic statue from Lincoln Park,” Norton said. 

“Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for this statue to be built in 1876, the design and sculpting process was done without their input, and it shows.  The statue fails to note in any way how enslaved African Americans pushed 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.'  

Because Lincoln Park is National Park Service (NPS) land, I will work with the NPS to see whether NPS has the authority to remove the statue without an act of Congress, and if so, we will seek its removal without a bill.  This statue has been controversial from the start.  It is time it was placed in a museum.”

The Emancipation Memorial 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 Memorial was rotated 180 degrees so the two statues would face each other.