The statue was supposed to come down last night. It did not, but reading through this thorough Examiner write-up of the gathering and what preceded it, you get the sense that it’s a matter of time before a serious attempt is made.
The organizer of the tear-it-down group is Harvard student (of course) Glenn Foster, who leads a group called Freedom Neighborhood. According to the Examiner, the group’s advance planning for bringing down the monument went as far to involve “human shields” while the act was done. (“[W]e need white people to be willing to put their bodies between the police and black bodies, if necessary.”) When they arrived last night, though, their main obstacle wasn’t police or white people but black people. Remember this woman, Marcia Cole? The clip of her offering her interpretation of the statue’s meaning went viral a few days ago:
"That man is not kneeling on two knees with his head bowed. He is in the act of getting up."
Listen to this beautiful soul.pic.twitter.com/jfOoO8PfWS
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) June 24, 2020
She was there at the protest last night too, dressed similarly. That’s not her normal attire; rather, notes the WSJ, it’s a tribute to Charlotte Scott, the former slave who made the very first donation to fund the statue in the 19th century. In the end it was paid for exclusively through donations from other former slaves. That gives it an unusual legacy, as I noted a few days ago, as a contribution to America’s civic architecture by African-Americans during Jim Crow. It’s not just a commemoration of an historic act. It’s history itself.
Cole made the case last night for leaving the statue alone:
**LANGUAGE ALERT (from crowd)**
You might remember this woman from the video earlier this week explaining the statue. pic.twitter.com/s3hlirR6nF
— Robert Donachie (@RJDonachie3) June 26, 2020
So did D.C. tour guide Don Folden, who’s also African-American:
Anyway, here’s Don Folden, a DC tour guide, making a case for keeping the statue. Glenn wouldn’t let him speak because he’s “old.” pic.twitter.com/7FiiXYXOwD
— Nic Rowan (@NicXTempore) June 27, 2020
The Examiner describes the reaction on the scene to Folden’s speech:
As Folden spoke, Foster asked him to be quiet, saying that older people should have no say in black activism.
“Last time I checked, this was my event,” Foster said…
Foster then asked the crowd to put their hands in the air if they truly believed that black lives matter. Several journalists recording the event did not, provoking the ire of people in the crowd, who called them Nazis and sprayed them with squirt guns.
Folden stepped in to escort the journalists away, and the crowd began shoving them. Police approached, and the event effectively ended.
Nothing says “woke” like assaulting journalists and older black people. Folden and a reenactor dressed as Frederick Douglass, who spoke at the statue’s dedication in 1876, tried to reason with one Jacobin and it went exactly as well as you’d suppose. Debating with religious fanatics is a fool’s errand:
“Why are you protecting it?!”
— Sagnik Basu (@_sagnikbasu) June 27, 2020
Needless to say, the statue should stand. It honors one of America’s grandest moments, however “problematically.” It’s worth noting too that the posture of the freed slave was seen as cringy even at its debut, with Douglass reportedly moved to criticize it in his remarks at the dedication:
A Washington-area journalist who attended the event, John Wesley Cromwell, reported that Douglass himself offered an ad-lib critique of the statue during his address. “He was very clear and emphatic in saying that he did not like the attitude; it showed the Negro on his knees, when a more manly attitude would have been more indicative of freedom,” Cromwell wrote.
Lincoln himself disliked the idea of freed slaves kneeling in gratitude before him. After Richmond was finally captured by the Union in 1865, he visited and was greeted by some who stooped to kiss his feet. “Don’t kneel to me,” he told them. “That is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will afterward enjoy.” But as Cole said in her explanation, it’s open to interpretation whether the freed slave depicted in the statue is kneeling or rising to his feet from subjugation. And Douglass’s disapproval of the figure’s posture obviously didn’t stop him from sanctioning the monument.
This isn’t the only statue of Lincoln in the crosshairs of the woke brigades, by the way. For all the chatter this week devoted to this specific monument because of the freed slave’s posture, there are other tributes to the Great Emancipator that are being targeted because he was, after all, a man of his time in his racial attitudes, never mind his actions to free African-Americans from bondage. Exit quotation: “He was also very publicly anti-Black. Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black.”