PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Crews removed the statue of Stephen Foster in Schenley Park Thursday morning.
It didn’t take long for Public Works crews to take down the 117-year-old bronze statue. The statue was unveiled in 1900 in Highland Park. In 1940, it was moved to its current location.
“The statue was built in 1900 and it was moved here in 1940. Since then, it hasn’t been touched,” City of Pittsburgh Communications Director Timothy McNulty said.
Last year, the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to recommend removing the statue.
“The city’s Art Commission ruled in October that it was no longer appropriate for this publicly-owned statue to be on this public land and we’re going to have to find a new place for it,” McNulty said.
Crews worked quickly and carefully to remove the statue, which will be kept in a storage facility.
“We estimated that it’s probably around 800 pounds, just the statue,” Pittsburgh Active Supervisor of Construction Tom Samstag said. “I have the backhoe to lift the statue and then I have a high lift here to get the heavier stone pieces out of here.”
The statue of the “Oh! Susanna” songwriter that has been criticized as demeaning because it includes a slave sitting at his feet, plucking a banjo.
Critics say the statue is offensive, but others say it merely shows that Foster was inspired by black spirituals and other music.
As for what will replace it, there are thoughts to erect a statue of an African-American woman.
“We have a task force that’s been looking at public art throughout the city and they found there are no statues of African-American women in the entire city. So, we’re going to figure out a way to do that, and hopefully this will be the place where such a statue will be,” McNulty said.
Posters of potential replacements surrounded the Foster statue. They feature prominent African-American women who lived in Pittsburgh, like Madam C.J. Walker, one of the first black female millionaires, Gwendolyn Elliot, the city’s first African-American police commander and Dr. Jean Hamilton Walls, the first African-American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree and a PhD from Pitt.
The city will listen to public comments before making a decision.
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