Norton puts Emancipation statue in Lincoln Park under scrutiny for removal

The Lincoln Park “Emancipation” statue in D.C., which depicts President Abraham Lincoln standing over a kneeling, freed enslaved man, is among the monuments drawing nationwide scrutiny. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she plans to introduce legislation to remove the Emancipation Memorial from Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill, which depicts President Abraham Lincoln with a freed slave.

Norton said the statue, which is nearly 150 years old, is “problematic” and needs to be taken down.

“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,” Norton said in a statement released Tuesday.

Norton said she will work with the National Park Service, which oversees the land where the statue is located. She plans to see if NPS has the authority to remove it without an act of Congress, but will move forward with legislation if that is required.

“This statue has been controversial from the start,” she said. “It is time it was placed in a museum.”

The statue is located at the center of the park, which is located midway between the U.S. Capitol and RFK Stadium. Residents of Capitol Hill often bring children and dogs to the park to play or enjoy its green space.

Formerly enslaved people helped pay for the statue to be built to honor Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. It was unveiled on April 14, 1876, exactly 11 years after Lincoln was assassinated.

Norton noted that abolitionist Frederick Douglass “expressed his displeasure” with the statue during his keynote address at the unveiling.

The statue shows Lincoln standing above the freed man, who is on one knee looking upward. The word “Emancipation” is below them.

The statue originally faced the U.S. Capitol, which is located about a mile to the west. But it was rotated to face another statue erected in 1974 at the other end of Lincoln Park.

The statue of African-American educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, along with two children, is located at the east end of the park.

Click here to read more history of Lincoln Park.

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