Emancipation Tour

Vincent Licenziato’s “Emancipation Tour” showed me Boston statuary I had never seen before, and taught me a good bit about some of the women and men who worked to emancipate themselves and others. Licenziato is knowledgeable about the people of African and European descent depicted in the statues, sculptures and monuments of his tour; and he is passionate about the cause of freedom. At each of the five “stops,” he asks questions like “what do you see here,” “how does it make you feel,” and “how is this relevant to today’s world?”

We had about a dozen people walk the tour, and one person used a scooter (which worked well, on this late summer day–the only snag was a short pause at the elevator up to the ice cream place in the mall). It took us about three hours to cover the 3+ mile distance, with appropriate pauses for conversation along the way. I would recommend it for┬ámost “Coming of Age” trips–even sunny days in winter could be good.

The tour began at the Emancipation Memorial, where Licenziato asked us our impressions, then explained how attitudes have changed about the piece (and where the original is–he knows a *lot*). The second “stop” was a series of what Licenziato calls “Activists and Allies.” Along the edge of the Boston Common, we learned about Wendell Philips, Thomas Cass, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Charles Sumner, William Ellery Channing, and William Lloyd Garrison.

The next stop, “Liberty & Justice For All” was the Boston Women’s Memorial, celebrating the lives and works of Phillis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone. The fourth stop was a single piece, marking the “Economic Justice” efforts of A. Phillip Randolph.

The last stop had two remarkable pieces, one honoring Harriet Tubman, and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s “Emancipation Group” (pictured above). Licenziato gave us a statement from the artist (which he is trying to get chiseled into the block beneath the piece): “I represented the race by a male and a female figure standing under a tree the branches of which are the fingers of Fate grasping at them to draw them back into the fateful clutches of hatred. [There is also] Humanity weeping over her suddenly freed children who, beneath the gnarled fingers of Fate, step forth into the world unafraid.”

I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Licenziato as an in-person tour guide. He is also trying to set up the tour as a self-guided experience, with a pamphlet explaining each piece, available from the Museum of African American History. In the prototype for that brochure, he includes the guiding principle of his tour–the words of Maya Angelou: History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

So may we be.



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