Around the country, monuments to the Civil War are being forcibly removed by the people and in some instances state governments.
However, there are still many that offend like the Stone Mountain, Georgia etching of General Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Known as the biggest symbol of white supremacy, this is a bombastic example.
But there are some that while being a bit more understated is just as polarizing.
Just ask Marcus Goodwin about the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill. He is currently leading the charge to remove the statue.
It features President Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand. He holds his left hand over the head of a formerly enslaved man kneeling at his feet.
“This all started the day before Juneteenth when I went down to the Emancipator monument and decided to stand up there next to Lincoln. I had a friend who helped me on his shoulders, a white Jewish guy who lives two blocks away, and he took a picture of me standing next to him.
“I said, ‘dude, I’m going to put together this petition and we’re going to shock the world because people just aren’t doing this kind of striking side-by-side of what relics of the past look like and what the present looks like.’
“This relic of the past shows a man on his hands and knees in a degrading, demeaning position next to the magnanimous white man who’s emancipated him.”
The bronze statue, designed by sculptor Thomas Ball, was built almost entirely with funds donated by the formerly enslaved and dedicated in 1876.
The statue was unveiled on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s death, with Frederick Douglass delivering the keynote address to President Ulysses S. Grant and more than 25,000 people in attendance.
“When people who defend the statue say, ‘oh well he’s a freed man.’ Is that what a freedman looks like? He’s on his knees. He’s in chains. He’s not wearing a shirt. The depiction is of someone who should be subservient, someone who should be thankful and today this is an allegory of our society.”
Goodwin was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He has built a career developing commercial properties that provide jobs and affordable housing for DC residents.
“In D.C. the white community has a net worth eight-one times that of the median Black family. So if we want a more equitable society, if we want to be “freed” we need to have imagery that depicts us in an empowering position and we need the societal support for better access to healthcare.
Goodwin put his private-sector career on hold and is now running for the open At-Large seat on the DC Council.
“It’s about money, its about economic development. If we were on par, we would have similar home ownership rates. But we have half as much home ownership rates as white families in the District. So if we want Black families to be home owners this affordable housing we are building needs to be home ownership opportunity.
“So we are taking this statue as a way to talk about equitably funding our city, equitably funding our communities and pivoting to get positive imagery of empowered Black people.”
Honoring Black Women
In 1974, the statue was rotated east to face a memorial built to honor Mary McLeod Bethune, also located in Lincoln Park.
“There’s only one African-American woman who has a statue in the District of Columbia, that’s Mary McLeod-Bethune. Most people don’t even know who she is and don’t even know her statue exists. So this is a place where we can emphasize, underscore, highlight. Let’s name the park after a Black woman, there’s not one park in D.C. named after a Black woman.
“I’m really happy to be at the forefront of this conversation, happy to be diametrically opposed to a God-awful President and really to be leading the conversation around how we treat the world around us. How do we create a society that young Black boys and girls look up and see that they are leaders.
“Barack Obama was but a grain of rice. We need to have just a collective effort in this country to emphasize our people who’ve committed socially, economically, culturally to the vibrance of this country but it hasn’t been respected with how we are represented.”
“It’s really been grassroots, there’s no action committee. I didn’t want to create any hierarchy or the like but its really been grassroots by people who are interested in social justice through a Change.org petition.
Lincoln Park is managed by the National Park Service which makes it a federally owned monument. In response to vandalism of monuments, President Trump has cited the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, passed in 2003.
It carries a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years for those convicted of vandalizing or destroying monuments, plaques, statues or other property “commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.”
“The only person who stepped up to be supportive is Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C. Delegate, House of Representatives). The Mayor has said she’d be happy to consider how we can get this thing in a museum.
“Younger people want to destroy it, I want to move it into museum where it can be properly contextualized. I want it put in a museum and a black woman put in its place. Let’s name it Bethune Park, for sure. She stands the test of time, most men don’t stand the test of time.”