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Emancipation Group

Emancipation Group

Thomas Ball

Thomas Ball composed this statue commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation following President Lincoln’s assassination. The sculpture represents Lincoln magically breaking the chains of bondage with his raised hand. The scroll in the president’s other hand represents the Proclamation. In contrast to the heroic portrayal of Lincoln, the nude Black man crouches in an inferior position. He is not an individual, but a racial type representing all formerly enslaved people. The sculpture characterizes Black freedom as an act of white power, given to a figure who remains on the ground, unable to free himself. It affirms an unequal relationship between Black and white Americans even as it celebrates emancipation. Ball later revised the composition and modeled the kneeling man’s face after a photograph of Archer Alexander, a formerly enslaved man. Larger versions of the revised statue were erected as bronze monuments in Washington, DC, and Boston. The city removed the latter in 2020. In 2021, the Chazen partnered with the MASK Consortium and artist Sanford Biggers to interpret Emancipation Group for contemporary America. Learn more about the ongoing re:mancipation project at
Thomas Ball
(American, 1819 - 1911)
Emancipation Group
White Italian marble
45 1/2 x 27 9/16 x 21 1/4 in. Overall
Gift of Dr. Warren E. Gilson
Accession No.
United States


After 1873 [1870s], allegedly donated to the City of San Francisco “by one of the Nob Hill-Comstock Lode millionaires” and located in the Courthouse [1]; after April, 1906-1974, private collection (San Francisco, CA); 1974, acquired by antique dealer (Salt Lake, UT); 1974, sold to Anthony B. Christensen (Bountiful, UT) [2]; by November 1975, Dr. Warren E. Gilson (Middleton, WI) [3]; 24 November 1975, deposited on long-term loan to Elvehjem Art Center; 1976, gifted to Elvehjem Art Center [now called Chazen Museum of Art]. [1] in letter from Anthony B. Christensen to Dr. Eric McCready, Director of the Elvehjem Art Center: "To my knowledge this piece was donated to the City of San Francisco by one of the Nob Hill-Comstock Lode millionaires in the 1870s. It was placed in the San Francisco City Courthouse and removed from the courthouse after the "Great Earthquake" and placed in a private estate where it remained until last year [1974]." This information needs to be researched and confirmed. [2] Anthony B. Christensen is the owner of Anthony’s Antiques and Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT (founded ca. 1990, [3] Dr. Warren E. Gilson (1917-2000), UW alumnus and founder of Gilson, Inc., a Wisconsin firm specializing in medical instruments; Gilson was a collector of decorative arts and donor of over 200 objects to the Milwaukee Art Museum between 1978 and 1998:; Gilson donated 16 objects (paintings, sculpture, antiquities, Asian ceramics, and decorative arts) to the Elvehjem Museum of Art between 1975 and 1994.

  • Craven, Wayne. "Thomas Ball and the Emancipation Group." Bulletin 1976-77. Elvehjem Art Center (1977): 43-51.
  • Fryd, Vivien Green. "Hiram Power's Bust of George Washington: The President as an Icon." Phoebus: A Journal of Art History, 5 (1987): 14-27. p.27, fig. 13

  • re:mancipation: Chazen Museum of Art, 2/6/2023–6/25/2023

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