The Monument

When the formerly enslaved Charlotte Scott heard the news of President Lincoln’s death, she took the first five dollars in money she had earned as a free woman, and gave them to her former master Mr. William P. Rucker a Union refugee from Virginia, who lived in Marietta Ohio then.  She asked him “to make a monument to Massa Lincoln, the best friend the colored people ever had”. Rucker would take those funds to Gen. T.H.C. Smith, and he would make sure that they were given to Mr. James Yeatman, Head of the Western Sanitary Commission, of who he asked “Would it not be well to.take up this suggestion and make it known to the freedmen?” And with that it would soon come under the help of the Commission, a war relief organization that operated west of the Allegheny Mountains for the Union Armies. During the Civil War, the Commission and the Ladies Union Aid worked with the U.S. Colored Troops, fugitive slaves heading north and the Freedmans Bureau. Yeatman would put William G. Eliot at the helm of the project.

Archer Alexander

By 1866 Gen. J. W. Davidson troops had helped raise $12,150, and then to $16,242.  (Today that would be equal to over $385,000). But times were changing and the movement was checked. A photograph was sent to Thomas Ball a sculptor from Boston, Massachusetts who had studied abroad and moved his studio to Florence, Italy. In 1870, Eliot would visit Ball’s studio and explain how things were proceeding in the U.S. and that the funds were coming from the formerly enslaved for this, and it was to be their monument. Ball agreed that the amount of funds already collected were sufficient to cast it at the Royal Foundry in Munich. The Western Sanitary Commission also asked Ball to make changes as well, feeling that the monument was too passive. The original plan had called for a black man kneeling wearing a soldier’s cap before Lincoln. The cap was removed and the slave was to be seen rising, haven broken his own chains and taking an active part in gaining his freedom. The slave that is immortalized and represents all of slavery, is none other than that of Archer Alexander. William Greenleaf Eliot, was a Unitarian minister who had founded Washington University in St. Louis. In 1863, had seen that Archer received his freedom, after a brave act of reporting his owner’s treasonous activities and saving hundreds of lives, and being the last fugitive slave.

“In the Capitol grounds at Washington, DC there is a bronze group known as Freedoms Memorial. It represents President Lincoln in the act of emancipating a negro slave, who kneels at his feet to receive his benediction, but whose hand has grasped the chain as if in the act of breaking it, indicating the historical fact that the slaves took active part in their own deliverance.” *

William greenleaf eliot -the story of archer alexander; from slavery to freedom

On the 11th Anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, April 14th, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant, the first U.S. President to be elected with the black vote, would pull a gold cord to reveal the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, in Washington, D.C. in front of a crowd of 25,000 former slaves. The day would be a remarkable occasion according to the great orator Frederick Douglass…

I warmly congratulate you upon the highly interesting object which has caused you to assemble in such numbers and spirit as you have today. This occasion is in some respects remarkable…Wise and thoughtful men of our race, who shall come after us…will make a note of this occasion, they will think of it. And speak of it. With a sense of manly pride and complacency…Few facts could better illustrate the vast and wonderful change which has taken place in. our condition as a people than the fact of our assembling here for the purpose we have today. An act which is to go into history.”

For the entire speech delivered that day see

The 13th Thirteenth Amendment which emancipated all those enslaved, started through Congress Jan 13, 1865 but would not be ratified until December 6, 1865.

The 14th Fourteenth Amendment addresses many aspects of citizenship and the rights of citizens., ratified July 11, 1868  has the most commonly used — and frequently litigated — phrase  “equal protection of the laws“,

The 15th Amendment which was ratified on February 3, 1870 gave all men, either white or black, the right to vote.

*Source: The Story of Archer Alexander – from Slavery to Freedom

The Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial or the Emancipation Group, and sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial” before the more prominent so-named memorial was built, is a monument in Lincoln Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. For Google Maps directions

Continue: From Slavery to Freedom

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