Charles Sumner was born in Boston in 1811. A famous politician, he is known for being the leader of the antislavery movement in Massachusetts and the leader of the Radical Republican party in the US Senate during the Civil War. Throughout his storied career, he spoke out against the Mexican-American War, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and even went as far as to call the Senator from South Carolina a pimp for “the harlot—slavery”. Totally Radical!
After his death in 1874, the Boston Art Committee held a competition in honor of Sumner. The winner with the best statue of Sumner would be displayed in the Public Garden. Both Anne Whitney and Thomas Ball entered anonymously. Whitney came in first, but when it was discovered she was a woman, she was disqualified. How could a woman make as good of as statue as a man! Also, how led would it be for her to sculpt his crotch and legs? Runner-up Thomas Ball’s statue is currently seen in the Public Garden.
Sumner was a long time family friend of Whitney, and she had admired him for his anti-slavery work. For over 20 years Whitney kept the original plaster of Sumner from the competition. In 1900, her friends commissioned her Sumner statue built. Finally, when Whitney was in her 80s, the statue of her friend was installed in Harvard Square where it stands today.
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