A most remarkable event Friday at the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park. A community conversation and history event had been scheduled. A protest event on Thursday was moved to Friday.
This confluence of groups got a spirited start when the protest leaders spoke first. Demands that the couching Black man image beside Lincoln was beyond redemption and had to be destroyed.
Further, a recitation of revisionist history declared Lincoln had nothing to do with improving conditions for Black people, and was also beyond redemption. Several older African American folks presented arguments in favor of preserving the statue for historical memory.
A group that portrays renowned women in period costume (FREED) gave compelling presentations on historical context.
Then Frederick Douglass himself took the stage before a decidedly volatile crowd.
He again delivered the speech made at the statue’s dedication in 1876.
He described Lincoln as Douglass knew him, defects and all. But he also gave Lincoln full credit for doing what no one else was capable, when he delivered the greatest act of social justice in our history; the Emancipation Proclamation.
The audience was enthralled.
Douglass (Nathan Richardson) persisted through occasional rants, to complete the speech and to answer questions in the way Douglass would have.
In all, a remarkable day of listening to concerns while learning from well-presented history. Passions were largely cooled.
As the sun set, the capital’s only memorial to the Proclamation still stood. The conversation continues.