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After Boston removes that statue of Lincoln and the freed slave, what should replace it?

What would you put on this statue pedestal

What would you put on this Park Square pedestal? Boston wants to know.

Boston Public Arts Director Karin Goodfellow reports the city hopes to remove that "Emancipation" statue in Park Square and stick it in storage somewhere really soon.

But what should the city do with it once Abe and headless Christopher Columbus have exhausted their conversation topics? And what should replace the void left in Park Square by the statue's removal?

Starting this winter, the City of Boston and Boston Art Commission will begin a series of virtual panel discussions and short-term art installations examining and reimagining our cultural symbols, public art, and histories.

You can tell the city your ideas for the future of the statue and the space it leaves behind, or even submit a drawing of what you'd like to see on the pedestal.

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Comments

It's delicious and shouldn't "offend" anyone ((but I bet it would)

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A jug of rum would evoke the trade in slaves.

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Then there are people who will take offense.

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Googled it, Pineapple is a racial slur. The more you know!

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Everything is offensive to someone.

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this really should go without saying, but the idea that “everything is offensive to someone” is so plainly untrue.

the real problem is that because you’re not offended by a thing, you don’t think anyone should be offended by it.

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If something offends a few people they think it should offend everyone.

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read what you wrote again

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Because some thought it too offensive for anyone to see. So it SHOULD be offensive to everyone, in their opinion.

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That's over-simplified to the point of being inaccurate.

It's gone because the right group of people, the Boston Art Commission, agreed that it no longer serves the public's purpose of providing enriching art to the city. They heard hours of testimony from the public regarding the piece and agreed unanimously to replace it with something more enriching.

First, whether it's offensive or not is only one factor in determining its worth in maintaining it as a public-facing piece of art. Second, "some people" aren't able to manifest this change unless those "some people" are the Art Commission and they are appointed by the Mayor and nominated by a WIDE range of art-focused institutes across the city (as well as needing to be residents and only serving 5 years and an additional 5 if the mayor agrees).

So, if a valid argument can be made to its offensiveness and no counter-argument can be made to its value to the public in spite of that perceived offense and a wide range of art-focused residents are convinced and the Mayor appointed them while considering his own political future which requires the votes of residents...then you can have public art removed and replaced. Likely, in that scenario (and how many times has this scenario even come up in your lifetime?), the art is going to be offensive to a significant portion of people AND there will likely be plenty of other more enriching art that can replace it (it's not like making awesome public art is in demise, we actually don't have enough places to put it all in my opinion).

So, that's why it's going/gone. If you had a strong opinion on it staying and could have made a convincing argument in light of the other people's opinions, you should have petitioned the Art Commission. They accepted hours of testimony.

Read up:
https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/20...
https://www.boston.gov/departments/arts-and-culture/boston-art-commission

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Wait a second, are you saying that people who strongly believe in a point of view they hold would think that their point of view is the correct one? Marvelous.

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The above comment is probably tongue in cheek but I'm going to take the bait. Pineapples definitely would offend people. It's seen as a symbol of colonialism, or to push it further, connected to the triangle trade and thus slavery.

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Molasses to rum to slaves was what I learned in my Boston Public school education.
I guess you learn something new every day because I have never heard of pineapples representing it, and I was not being tongue and cheek.

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Do you have any links to pineapple being a symbol of colonialism, besides you saying so?

Pineapple is better known as a symbol of hospitality.

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Pineapples shipped from the Caribbean to North American colonizers were a sign of hospitality toward other colonizers.

People who had their land stolen by such colonizers or were enslaved by such colonizers viewed them as, well, something associated with those colonizers.

I guess it depends which group of folks you align with.

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Even a delicious pineapple would "offend" some people.
Let's leave it empty and call it the imagination memorial

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It sounds to me like you're talking nonsense you made up, because you don't have any sources. Pineapple is native to South America, and was popularly cultivated from what is now Argentina up to the Caribbean. Europeans didn't bring it here; the Columbian exchange went the other way.

Pineapples became a symbol of hospitality in the times of colonial Boston not because they were grown on huge colonial plantations but because of their rarity - unlike the major trade commodities of the era, they were very difficult to transport without spoiling. People even rented them for parties.

It wasn't until centuries later that there was significant planting of pineapples outside the Americas - Dole started his first pineapple plantation in Hawaii in 1900. If there's any colonial symbolism related to the pineapple, it's modern.

So it seems to me, eeka, that you're a bit disoriented regarding the pineapple. I understand your sympathies, but I think you're projecting a fiction.

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"1-31-07 Never Forget"

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I am so glad someone else remembers this.

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... as the slave.

If I recall correctly, the descendants of the ex slave depicted objected to the removal.

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Recreate the monument but with the former slave standing upright and dignified, perhaps shaking Lincoln's hand as equals.

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The whole "Lincoln freed the slaves" narrative is oversimplified and many feel it promotes a white savior narrative and/or is patronizing.

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this whole thing is meant to be a conversation, not a simple binary should the statue stay or should it go?

getting into the weeds about who and how many people would be offended is not only beside the point, it’s facile enough to entertain people who would rather not engage on the substance of america’s racist history.

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If that's the case, then there should be room for the view that many people, especially many people of color, are pretty done with any sorts of tributes to Lincoln, particularly those that view him as a hero for Black folks. It isn't "beside the point."

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the conversations that revolve around a vague idea of “offense” are used as a cudgel by reactionaries in order to detract from a real and substantive reckoning with america’s racist history.

i.e. “well let’s replace it with pineapples, although i’m sure someone will get offended by that”

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A symbol of slavery. Better still how about honoring nurses for their heroic fight against the invisible enemy the virus.

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And maybe let different artists use it for temporary art, like the pedestal in Trafalgar Square.

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Keeping with the theme of the end of slavery, I think Frederick Douglass would be a great choice. He had Massachusetts connections, having lived in Lynn and New Bedford, and made appearances all over Massachusetts advocating the end of slavery. As far as I know there is no statue of Douglass in Boston.

It appears the city is not really interested in hearing from everyone, as the link provided requires a google log in .

I did however forward my suggestion to my City Councilor this summer.

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I think it ought to be something really meaningful--perhaps a monument to President Lincoln as emancipator. Something like that. The type of thing that the freedmen themselves would have supported, maybe even paid for with their own hard-earned money.

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A monument to President Lincoln as emancipator that is less cringeworthy. Perhaps a recast of the President himself, but with the emancipated not on their knees in rags.

I'm being honest, here. I have a strong dislike of recasting history, but that was a bad depiction. Perhaps Lincoln meeting with Frederick Douglas.

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My apologies for being glib.

I get what you're saying, but when I look at that monument, I've always seen it as Lincoln bidding the recently freed man to stand up. Paternalistic, definitely, but pretty progressive for its time.

The problem with telling somebody that they're now free to stand up is that it forces us to acknowledge that person's previous lack of freedom. That's a sticking point in recent historiography.

For around the past fifty years, there has been a trend in historical writing focusing on narratives emphasizing the agency of oppressed peoples. In terms of American slavery in particular, this has led to a flavor scholarship focused on slave rebellions, acts of passive resistance, sabotage, and the creation of a unique African American culture under the most horrible of circumstances--basically, how the enslaved carved out autonomy for themselves within "the peculiar institution." These are obviously stories that demand to be told, and it seems like a prime motivation for telling them is to shed a communal feeling of victimhood.

My concern is that this sort of approach risks turning slavery into something of a victimless crime. You may think that's a straw man, but I've definitely sat through at least one Africana Studies course that spoke of slavery almost solely in terms of resistance and the creation of a vibrant new culture--constructing what felt like feel-good narrative around slavery. It puts historians in the odd position of discussing brutal oppression while simultaneously making arguments that tend to undercut the scope of that oppression.

It reminds me of some of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's sociological writing decades ago. His basic thesis, if I recall, was that systemic racism created horrible circumstances that degraded the African American community. One big reason why his work fell out of favor is that--understandably--no community likes to think of itself as having been degraded. That's just terrible.

All of this is to say, it seems like a tricky balance between uplifting the spirits of a community by moving past victimhood and remembering the suffering of the enslaved. Both are incredibly compelling priorities. I guess the fundamental question is: "who is a monument for?"

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And the constant rewriting of history has some issues, but a redesigned version of the same thing is the least worst outcome. One other option would be to keep Lincoln out of it, which truly defeats the purpose of the statue. Another would be to make if of something other than emancipation, at which point we can ask why statues are put up in the first place.

I get the history of the statue, and others should too. Putting it into storage, as the article puts it, would be sad, but if that is to happen, make the replacement a good one.

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What rewriting of history do you dislike and take issue with?

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But of you take a look at the comment I was replying to, you'll get an idea of where I got it in my head that rewriting of history could be seen as an issue for some.

Or maybe you meant to comment on what he said.

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But I still don’t understand what rewritten history that you, as you say, “strongly dislike”.

I only asked the question because you make a point to mention this aversion twice and I was curious.

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Perhaps a montage or series of some sort that reflects the history leading up to and resulting from the "moment" of the Emancipation Proclamation.

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When you think about it, it's weird that we make statues of other people. People are complicated and flawed and weird and even if you can be inspired by someone, it's really just a reflection of one perspective and inevitably leaves a lot of others' experiences out.

Anyway I for one vote for a scale model of the USS Enterprise.

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.

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C'mon, this is clearly a nation of Romulans no matter what lies we tell ourselves.

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The original NCC-1701, not that abomination Captained by Picard.

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.... a collection of space savers all piled together and being loaded into a garbage truck.

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Because Boston.

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I guess the Tea Party is over.

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.

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Not all public art needs to be a life-like statue of a famous figure, and it doesn’t have to be a statue at all.

I’m not saying it should not be another statue, but it’s hard to imagine anyone getting too excited if it’s just a re-worked version of Lincoln and an emancipated Black American. (Unless it’s some off-the-wall Jeff Koons-style Lincoln sculpture that pisses everyone off. I enjoy it when the pearl-clutchers get their knickers all twisted because something doesn’t fit their narrow classical/baroque tastes in art.)

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... a depiction of the pearl clutcher clichè? Along with some other stereotypes?

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Tommy Menino.

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A statue of him cutting a ribbon!

Miss the fool, no way he would have put up with the BS that happened over the summer downtown.

Americas Mayor!

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Tommy Menino.

HELL no.

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I’d like to suggest a statue of Sean Ellis, the central character whose story is told in the recent docuseries Trial 4. In my view, this Boston native is a true hero.

Of course that may tickle some people, including the police commissioners and DA’s of the past 30 years who would much rather keep a black man guilty of a crime he didn’t commit than reopen a case that would uncover deep-seated corruption, racism and incompetence within law enforcement.

To be useful, a new monument should be though provoking; not all of Boston's history happened eons ago and some recent events are highly relevant to these days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_4

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Put in the wrong place.

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Just leave it where it is. Only Bostonians know what it is or where it is. It fits in The Commons space.

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It fits in The Commons space.

What are you talking about?

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She did a bang-up job with her sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft.

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Got a pic of the art?

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A statue of a Native American. Someone specific.

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Wasn't there a quote from Douglass that said the statue was fine but it lacked context?

How about we leave it as is and install a statue of Obama with it. Talk about context. From a slave emerging from the shackles if bondage to holding the highest office in the land. For good measure and in the context of Massachusetts, perhaps a statue of Decal Patrick also.

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Douglass was not shy (nor brief) in sharing his dislike of the sculpture — mostly because Lincoln was *not* the great emancipator. He greatly disliked this myth-making of Lincoln. You can read the full speech online: https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/frederick-douglass-and-abraham-lincoln...

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A good read.

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The Simpson’s family on couch

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With a statue of OJ, Nicole, and a bloody glove, at least the "Emancipation" caption can be reused.

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The cartoon Simpsons

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bas-relief versions of the stolen Gardner art.

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which will themselves then be stolen

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How about that weird light-brite looking art project that everyone thought was a bomb that shut down the whole darn city a few years back? That or the Keytar Bear? Maybe the statue of Baphomet with the kids the the Satanic Temple tried to put up in Arkansas or Oklahoma or wherever?

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N/T

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Might be close to that.

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He picked fights with everyone, including the President. A Boston original. A true radical.

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I just hope they turn away from commemorating disasters, massacres, plagues, molasses, pogroms, catastrophes, holocausts, oppression, body counts, segregation, poverty, and wars. Can't anyone think of something happy to remember?

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I bet there's one around here that will go for cheap soon.

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She had more balls than RINO Charlie on his best day.

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How about a pair of big shiny adult hands grabbing a big shiny child's ass, but if you look at the other side it's a big shiny alien half-creature biting a giant worm?

Oh, no, never mind, we already have one of those.

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The former slave depicted on the monument is a real man, Archer Alexander. He escaped to freedom, aided the Union Army and was the last person taken under the fugitive slave act in Missouri. After emancipation, Alexander posed for this statue with the artist specifically showing him breaking his OWN chains, rather than Lincoln. He does not look at Lincoln with gratitude, but his gaze is trained on the future. Alexander’s own decedents did not want this statue removed.

The pose is based on the emblem of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist group founded in 1833, who's leader once was Frederick Douglass. The emblem was familiar to Americans at the time and was usually accompanied by the phrase; "Am I not a man and a brother?" The statue’s artist changed the image to have the former slave rising to freedom, shedding his broken shackles.

This is Archer Alexander's photo:

https://www.blackpast.org/wp-content/uploads/Archer_Alexander_ca_1870_Co...

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