After months of deliberation, Pittsburgh's mayor announced this week that the city will remove a controversial statue depicting antebellum songwriter Stephen Foster and an enslaved black man and replace it with a new statue honoring women, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Mayor Bill Peduto announced that city will honor black women in an effort to reconcile America's long history of sexism and racism. His Task Force on Women in Public Art is conducting an online poll to decide on which historic black woman will replace the statue of Foster.
“I look forward to the community's input to see how we can remember and commemorate African American women and all their contributions in the city of Pittsburgh,” Peduto said in a statement.
The poll features some of the most distinguished Pittsburgh residents of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Madame CJ Walker, educator Jean Hamilton Walls and artist Selma Burke, among others.
People may be familiar with Foster's music if not the man himself. In the 1800s, Foster composed some of America's most enduring classics, which were often used in minstrel shows that depicted black people in a dehumanizing way.
White actors in blackface would do childish and buffoonish dances to many of his songs. His body of work includes songs such as "Oh! Susanna," "Hard Times Come Again No More," "Camptown Races," "My Old Kentucky Home" and many more. These songs have permeated American culture earning Foster the title of the "father of American music."
Last April, Peduto announced that the Foster statue would be relocated to a private location with public access. Instead of removing it altogether, Peduto hopes to keep it in the city and use it as a teaching tool to improve race relations. The controversy surrounding statue primarily stems from the subservient positioning of the black musician.
Some say that Foster is "taking" inspiration from him, while others state that is an expression of white supremacy. As of now, the city has yet to find a permanent location for the old statue.