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, 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 Western Sanitary Commission, with William G. Eliot at the helm. He would share it with many of the benefactors of the Freedmens Bureau, active during the Civil War.

The original sculpture planned was seen as too passive with the slave Archer Alexander wearing a cap similar to those enrolled in the United States Colored Troops.
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 $130,000). But times were changing and the movement was checked. A photograph had been provided to Thomas Ball a sculptor from Massachusetts who had studied abroad and moved his studio there. He and Eliot were apparently familiar and in 1870, they would meet in Ball’s studio. Eliot would 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. The original plan had called for a passive black man kneeling in a soldier’s cap, before Lincoln. The cap was removed and the slave was to be seen rising, breaking 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.

“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 he 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 people. 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.”

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