THE EMANCIPATION MEMORIAL STATUE: Moving Forward

THE EMANCIPATION MEMORIAL STATUE: Moving Forward

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Kathy Barnette started this petition to National Park Service and

Time moves forward and what is left in its place is called "History."  Whether it's a statue that acknowledges the Confederacy or one supporting the Union or the Emancipation Memorial Statue itself – they are all markers in time that reflect where we once were as a nation, how far we've come, and how far we have yet to go. They do not represent the beginning nor the end of our story.

In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation gave more than three million black people freedom. We were free, but not equal. It took 101 years to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that put us on the path towards equality. However, we still were not equal overnight. Today, 56 years later, we continue down the path towards full inclusion in the shared prosperity of America. This path has not always been a smooth one. It has been burdened by a lack of adequate access, charged with erratic acts of racism, and troubled with limited partnerships and opaque policies. But, history continues to move forward. We are not the same people we were in 1619, 1776, 1863, or 1964. We're a work in progress – and each of these historic years represents a milestone in our nation's pain and progress. America's history includes the good, the bad, and the downright ugly – but we need to see the opportunities. We need to look forward.

In 1876, in honor of President Abraham Lincoln and the over 700,000 men who died in the Civil War, a statue portraying the late President and a former slave was created and dedicated in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. It is known as the Emancipation Memorial Statue and was funded by former slaves to honor Lincoln. Today, this statue has become a point of contention as the former slave is portrayed crouching (or rising, depending on who you ask) at Lincoln’s feet. There is an effort to remove it because many people feel that it depicts the freed slave in a perpetual subservient position. This is a concern that should be addressed, however, tearing down what represents our past is not the answer for our nation's future. Instead, the best way to heal our nation is to continue to tell its story. This is why we're proposing new markers and monuments that display America's evolution as it continues down that path of becoming a more perfect union.

We propose erecting two new statues alongside the Emancipation Memorial Statue – one to its right and the other to its left:

1.    We recommend that one statue portrays our first African-American President, President Barack Obama, and his family. We suggest the new statue be positioned so that the freed slave of the Emancipation Memorial Statue appears to be looking towards the First Family. This will serve as an example of how far we have come as a nation and how we stand today on the shoulders of those who have come before us.  This is an endorsement of the people of this nation, both black and white, who elected the first black president.  This is a historical fact that testifies to the heart of this nation and specifically to how far the black community has come.  Racial relations are not as it was in 1619, 1776, 1863 or 1964...our nation continues to move forward. To pretend otherwise is beyond disingenuous. 

2.    We recommend that the second statue portray the great Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent leaders of the Abolitionist Movement. We suggest that he is placed looking towards the other two statues with an inscription on the statue's base containing his speech from the dedication of the Emancipation Memorial Statue on April 14, 1876. We also recommend that Mr. Douglass’ reported criticism of the statue depicting a kneeling black man, rather than a standing free man, also be inscribed on the base.

Furthermore, we suggest that a celebration of unity for all Americans takes place in Washington, D.C. and throughout our nation when these two additional statues are dedicated.

We are petitioning the United States' National Park Service to consider our proposal. We further request members of Congress, all elected officials in the city of Washington, D.C., and all Americans to support this petition. If we are to do better, we must understand our past, recognize our faults, and honor the progress we have made as a nation moving forward.

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