1863, cast after 1863
14 1/4 x 19 3/4 x 10 1/2 in.
Base, p.r. front edge, inscribed: J. Q. A. Ward. Sc\
Across arch of manacle, inscribed: FORT WAGNER JULY 18TH 1863
Across barrel of manacle, inscribed: 54th Mass. \ Colored Vols
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
The Freedman directly addresses the issue of slavery. Unlike the conventional depictions of enslaved African Americans at this time, which typically showed them as powerless, this heroic figure has broken his chains. Ward probably began modeling the sculpture as President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. The manacle in the figure’s right hand is engraved with a tribute to an extraordinary Civil War regiment—the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, the first Union black regiment—many of whom died in battle at Fort Wagner in 1863. The handcuffs of this piece can be opened and closed with a key, serving as a powerful statement of the still unresolved issue of slavery at the time.