Don’t Tear it Down: The Freedmen’s Memorial

An Open Letter from a Black Constituent

Written by Cheryl of Lincoln Park | Edited by the Davila Kafe Team

The Freedmen's Memorial at Lincoln Park
The Freedmen's Memorial at Lincoln Park | Photo by Cheryl of Lincoln Park

Dear Council Member Allen,

I am a Black constituent who lives near Lincoln Park in a gentrifying neighborhood with increasingly fewer symbols of DC’s Black history. I was drawn to living near the park because of the Freedmen’s Memorial and what it meant to the formerly enslaved people like Charlotte Scott of Virginia who donated her first $5 earned in freedom to commission it.

Every visitor to my home gets a brief history lesson of how mostly formerly enslaved people raised $20,000 to erect the statue. These formerly enslaved Black people, however, did not control the design which rendered what many consider a racist depiction of a crouching formerly enslaved person. Many of my guests have been offended by that crouching figure and did not see him as an “agent in his own resistance” and rising, as the Italy-based sculptor,Thomas Ball, assumed was implied in his work. Despite their initial indignation, my guests soften when they learn the history of the statue and what it meant to formerly enslaved people in post-antebellum DC. This memorial meant something to them and it should mean something to us even if its meaning is contested in our times.