When a Blessing Becomes Objectionable [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Sadly, the Boston Art Commission unanimously voted to remove the Abraham Lincoln statue in Park Square that's been in Boston since 1879. No date has been set for the statue's eviction.
According to one of the commission members, the statue has brought shame to a group of people and it hurts to look at the memorial, adding that public art is storytelling at the street level.
The objections raised, since the statue was first shown, are understandable and transparent. But an explainer is necessary here, so, let me tell you about Thomas Ball, originally from the Boston area, the designer of Freedman's Memorial, and what he was thinking and feeling when he created this sculpture.
It was forged as a reaction to the news of Lincoln's assassination. Ball's intention was to honor Lincoln's greatest triumph: the Emancipation Proclamation. He was faced with taking a complicated historical achievement and condensing it into a story told through art.
One of the ongoing criticisms is Lincoln's standing presence, gazing down toward a newly-freed slave. Lincoln's face shows his age with deep wrinkles and the strain of his undertaking with sunken cheeks, because he was categorically criticized by abolitionists for doing too little too late and by his more conservative constituents for moving too quickly.
The freedman shows no irregularities or signs of age, symbolizing optimal physical beauty, working against the racist notions of that time that Black people were less than White people.
As Lincoln's right hand unravels the document, he's extending his left hand with his palm facing downward. This gesture was Ball's way of symbolizing Lincoln's blessing and bestowing a new status and social position on all the formerly enslaved humans.
The memorial advances reconciliation and Thomas Ball's intent in creating a befitting commemorative for the assassinated president and the freed slaves.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.