Abraham Lincoln in Edinburgh; Markers of Race

I’ve recently returned from my research trip to Scotland and it was wonderful. One of the most striking things I saw outside of the beauty of the architecture of Glasgow and Edinburgh was a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Edinburgh. I am always interested in iconography, memory, and transatlantic linkages to freedom and unfreedom.

Built in 1893, the statue of Abraham Lincoln can be found in the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh city center.  The statue stands as a commemoration for the Scottish soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. My colleague and friend David Silkenat, a professor of history at the University of Edinburgh led me to where the statue stands where I took photographs of it.


Apart from Abraham Lincoln’s imposing form, I was also intrigued by the exhibition of race in the statue. At the base of the pedestal is a figure of a newly emancipated freedman. The markers of race were apparent in the attire, his lack of shoes, the gradations in the hair and the profile of the freedman’s face. His arm extended to Lincoln while being below his feet at the base of the statue is a posture that serves the paternalistic tone of the relation between the freedman and Lincoln.


But the freedman also holds a book. The theme of education as the great equalizer is subtly invoked.


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