The Emancipation Memorial shows Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation in one hand, with his other hand over the head of a black man in a loincloth kneeling at his feet.
Critics argue that the statue is paternalistic, demeaning in its depiction of black Americans, and that it does not do justice to the role that black people played in their own liberation.
Those against removal say it is a positive depiction of people being freed from the shackles of slavery, and that removing such monuments can amount to an erasing of history.
The drive to remove the statue came amid a wave of calls to take down monuments of Confederate generals nationwide, a move largely welcomed by activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, who see Confederate and other such monuments as reminders of an oppressive history. They call for a more honest accounting of American history.
Officials had erected barriers around the Emancipation Memorial in advance of demonstrations. Residents posted notes on the fence expressing their views, and on June 25, 2020, around 100 people gathered at the monument arguing about what it meant.
In February 2021, Democratic Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced a Bill in the United States Congress to have the statue removed and taken to a museum.