Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans and Washington DC

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Emancipation Monument

The Emancipation Monument, unveiled in 1876. Deborah Willis/AASC

The Emancipation Monument, called the Freedmen’s Memorial at its unveiling in 1876, is located in Lincoln Park on East Capitol Street between 11th and 13th, northeast Washington, and was sculpted by Thomas Ball. In the wake of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, a former slave woman named Charlotte Scott gave her former master $5 with the understanding that he would work for the creation of a monument in Lincoln’s honor. Newspapers quickly picked up the story, and other black people followed Scott’s lead and the movement soon gained national attention. Donations from black soldiers constituted a large percentage of the funds raised for the desired memorial. Thomas Ball’s sculpture depicts Lincoln standing above a kneeling, semi-clad black man who reaches out with one hand that is finally unchained. Ball used the photographic image of a self-emancipated man named Archer Alexander as the model for the freed slave in the sculpture and one of Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln to create the statue. Frederick Douglass read the Emancipation Proclamation at its dedication.

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