In a city crowded with memorials and monuments, a few represent the individual struggles of African American pioneers or salute the contributions of black citizens. None is as prominent as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. But they mark some underrecorded chapters of our history. The bust of Sojourner Truth in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center has the same stern likeness seen in photographs of her. The faces on the statue dedicated to the black troops who served in the Civil War resemble those in family scrapbooks and history texts. Most important, these artworks flesh out the story of the nation.
Across D.C., statues honor African Americans
1 A. Philip Randolph
Why it is interesting: Randolph fought for workers’ rights in the early 20th century and founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union of the famous black Pullman porters who worked on the railroads. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
Location: Union Station at the Amtrak and MARC departure level.
2 Emancipation Monument
What it looks like: A towering Abraham Lincoln holds the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand. By Lincoln’s side is a newly freed slave.
Why it is interesting: The statue was created in 1874 by Thomas Ball and paid for by freed slaves in Lincoln’s memory.
Location: Lincoln Park, East Capitol and 11th streets NE.
3 Here I Stand: The Spirit of Paul Robeson
What it looks like: An abstract tribute to the singer, actor and activist by Allen Uzikee Nelson.
Why it is interesting: Nelson has dedicated a number of abstract works to education and legal pioneers, as well as black activists. He created one for educator Cleveland Dennard at 16th Street and Arkansas Avenue NW, another for former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall at the Anacostia Community Museum and one for Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X at 1440 Belmont St. NW.
Location: Georgia and Kansas avenues NW.
4 Josh Gibson
What it looks like: Gibson, one of the greatest hitters and catchers in baseball history, is looking toward the bleachers, where he hit many home runs. The full-size statue is by Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany.
Why it is important: Gibson was a phenomenal player, spending his career with the Homestead Grays, Washington’s Negro League baseball team, and other teams. One of his favorite parks was Griffith Stadium, where the Grays played when the Washington Senators weren’t scheduled.
Location: Nationals Park, Center Field Plaza.
5 Lady Fortitude
What it looks like: An abstract form more than 12 feet tall represents the strength of African American women.
Why it is interesting: The sculpture by James King was a gift to Howard University by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, founded on the campus in 1913.
Location: Howard University, Sixth Street and Howard Place NW.
6 Martin Luther King Jr.
What it looks like: A bust by John Wilson shows King in a suit and tie in a restful, nonspeaking pose.