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Friday, September 24, 2021

Slave figures to replace toppled statue of slaveholder

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Slave figures to replace toppled statue of slaveholder
Slave figures to replace toppled statue of slaveholder

[NFA] One year after a statue of Francis Scott Key was toppled by racial injustice protesters in Golden Gate Park, an art exhibit opens next week with 350 slave sculptures gathered around the space once dedicated to the "The Star-Spangled Banner" creator - a slaveholder himself.

This report produced by Yahaira Jacquez.

At her studio in Oakland, California, sculptor Dana King puts the finishing touches on an exhibit set to be unveiled on Juneteenth, the holiday on June 19 marking the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. The exhibit is titled 'Monumental Reckoning' and King says there is no mistaking its message.

"The ancestors are Black, their hair is black, their faces black, their bodies are black.

That 52-foot-tall plinth is all white.

And the ancestors will stand there for justice, and they will stand in judgment of the history of America on behalf of all of us.

Not just African descendants." The 350 black steel sculptures, each 4 feet high, represent Africans kidnapped and forced onto a slave ship headed across the Atlantic in 1619.

Those who survived the journey became the first of America's 10 million African slaves.

Next week, they will be installed in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park where a statue of Francis Scott Key once stood.

It was toppled last year on Juneteenth by protesters against racial injustice just weeks after the death of George Floyd.

King: "Francis Scott Key was a horrible person..." Key, the creator of "The Star-Spangled Banner," was a slaveholder himself.

" wasn't until his sculpture was toppled, toppled there last year that I and many others found out that he was an anti-abolitionist, that he owned other human beings, that he used his power and his position and his money to further enslave people." King is helping design the most effective way to reveal the painful history represented by "Monumental Reckoning," including the fact that the beloved U.S. national anthem was written by a slave owner.

She says the exhibit will spotlight the rarely sung third verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In the third stanza, Key wrote about sending slaves to their graves.

Some historians say that was meant to threaten African Americans who were promised freedom by the British if they fought on their side in the war between the U.S. and Great Britain.

King: "You know, I'm 61 years old.

I have put my hand over my heart so many times, I can't even count and sung The Star-Spangled Banner, not knowing, not knowing that the third stanza carried the words that enslaved people should be sent to their graves.

I won't sing it again."