The Untold Story

On April 14, 1876, a 70-year-old black man named Archer Alexander, would be immortalized when he was chosen to be the face that represented “slavery” on the Freedom Memorial in our Nation’s Capitol. Lincoln was the very man who had given him freedom and as his first biographer William Greenleaf Eliot states “whose freedom came directly from the hand of President Lincoln, by provost-marshal authority, and his own hands had helped to break the chains that bound him.” He was not invited to the monument’s dedication, nor was he identified at all. No one would know his name that day, and he would remain unknown until Eliot, shared his story in 1885. However, recent research has revealed that there is a lot more to this amazing story.

According to author Kirk Savage, in Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves Frederick Douglass remarked “it was the first time his “race” had ever erected a monument to a great American. It was also the first time his race had appeared in a national monument.” The facts of the monument are well known. While the monument was sculpted by Boston-born sculptor Thomas Ball, it was entirely paid for by thousands and thousands of formerly enslaved black Americans, and members of the nearly 200,000 United States Colored Troops.  The base was provided by the Western Sanitary Commission, while the land itself was provided by the U.S. Congress. Today the monument, the Freedman’s Memorial, sometimes called the Emancipation Monument is owned by our Nation’s government, and is administered by the National Park Service, and cannot be moved without an act of Congress. Many who view Archer and his position are quick to criticize and judge. Is he kneeling? Is he rising? I invite you to learn who Archer Alexander is, and why he is the face of slavery…

On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia will host an online evening event “Archer Alexander: The Monuments Unknown Hero” with historian and writer Dorris Keeven-Franke revealing the full back story on the man who portrays the freedman on the “Emancipation Memorial” statue in Lincoln Park near the U.S. Capitol Building. To RSVP https://www.lincolnian.org/event-details/dorris-keeven-franke-on-archer-alexander-the-monuments-unknown-hero

Author Dorris Keeven-Franke with Archer Alexander’s descendant Keith Winstead at the Freedom Memorial in Washington D.C.