A historical reenactor who portrays the freed slave who donated the first $5 to build the Abraham Lincoln statue in Washington DC that is currently under fire has spoken out, saying that protesters who want to tear it down don’t understand its history.
Marcia Cole is a member of the Female RE-Enactors of Distinction (FREED) who portrays Charlotte Scott, the freed slave who pledged her first wages to the statue in 1865 upon hearing of Lincoln’s assassination.
The statue, which was the first ever built of Lincoln and was meant to symbolize his role in ending slavery in the U.S., was funded entirely by donations from former slaves, including many black Union veterans, according to the National Park Service.
Over the past week, Black Lives Matter protesters have vowed to tear the statue down, saying that its depiction of the kneeling freed slave before Lincoln is demeaning and racist.
‘I’m here to speak on behalf of the legacy of Charlotte Scott,’ Cole told WJLA-TV. ‘I understand there’s a big campaign trying to raise money to either take it down or mend it, and I say ‘no’ on behalf of Ms. Charlotte.’
Historical reenactor Marcia Cole (left) portrays Charlotte Scott (right), the freed slave who pledged her first wages to the statue in 1865 upon hearing of Lincoln’s assassination
‘I say ‘no’ on behalf of Ms. Charlotte’ Cole told reporters, defending the statue against those who wish to see it torn down or removed
The Emancipation Memorial in Washington’s Lincoln Park depicts a freed slave kneeling at the feet of President Abraham Lincoln. Calls are intensifying for its removal
Cole argued that the depiction of the freed slave, who is modeled on actual former slave Archer Alexander, is not demeaning.
‘People tend to think of that figure as being servile but on second look you will see something different, perhaps,’ she said.
‘That man is not kneeling on two knees with his head bowed. He is in the act of getting up. And his head is up, not bowed, because he’s looking forward to a future of freedom.’
She also points out that the shackle on the portrayed freedman’s wrist is attached to a broken chain.
Over the past week, Cole and other reenactors from the African American Civil War Museum have been confronting angry protesters who are demanding that the monument be torn down.
Cole (center) is seen with fellow members of the the Female RE-Enactors of Distinction (FREED), an auxiliary of the African American Civil War Museum
A reenactor portraying abolitionist Frederick Douglass (right) stands in Lincoln Park during a debate about whether or not to remove the Emancipation Statue, in Washington, DC
Greg Turner (center) argues with protesters against the removal of the Emancipation Statue
Carolivia Heronn holds a sign in support of leaving the statue up, with a photo of herself taking her first steps in the very same park 75 years ago
On Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered demanding the removal of the statue, which has now been surrounded by tall fences and barricades.
‘It’s beautiful but demeaning,’ said Angie White, a resident to NBC News. ‘They need to take it down and it probably should be put in a museum somewhere because of the craftsmanship. But as a black woman, I’m tired of seeing us at a lower level.’
‘We may have come to the time where this statue should come down, but I don’t want to see this statue come down with a rope. It needs to be brought down with dignity,’ said another local, Dione Shears.
The statue, which is near Capitol Hill sits on federal land. Concrete barriers and 8ft high fences have been erected.
President Donald Trump has announced an Executive Order ‘protecting American Monuments’, and promised prison sentences of up to 10 years for those who damage them.
The president tweeted: ‘I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!’
Melania Douglass (C) speaks in Lincoln Park to demand the removal the Emancipation Statue
Protesters for and against the removal of the Emancipation Memorial debate in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC
Protesters who want the Emancipation Memorial removed gather at Lincoln Park
The order calls on Attorney General William Barr to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any person or group that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial or statue. Federal law authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for the ‘willful injury’ of federal property.
The order also calls for maximum prosecution for anyone who incites violence and illegal activity, and it threatens state and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect monuments with the loss of federal funding.
Trump’s announcement came on Friday after the president also tweeted a photo of an FBI wanted poster asking the public for information about 15 people suspected of vandalizing the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square on Monday.
Critics said the Lincoln statue, originally constructed in 1876 to celebrate slave liberation, looks more like black subservience and white supremacy in 2020.
Conservative activist and Trump supporter Jack Posobiec gets into an argument with antifa in front of the Emancipation Memorial at Lincoln Park in Washington, DC on Friday
Protesters set fire to an American flag at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, amid racial inequality protests in Washington. This was taken on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital
The Emancipation Statue stands behind a fence at Lincoln Park in Washington, DC
Frederick Douglass, the famous abolitionist who escaped slavery, was known to have disliked the image of a black man kneeling at the feet of his white emancipator.
The Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, was erected in Washington’s Lincoln Park in 1876.
A copy of the Washington statue was also installed in Boston, home to the statue’s white creator Thomas Ball, in 1879.
The Boston figure is also on the radar of activists and a petition is being circulated to have the memorial removed.