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Sculptures honoring first Africans in America may soon be installed at Golden Gate Park

The city hopes to unveil a new art installation in Golden Gate Park honoring the first Africans in America in time for Juneteenth.

The installation — titled “Monumental Reckoning” by Bay Area sculptor Dana King — honors the first Africans stolen from their homeland and sold into slavery.

It consists of 350 sculptures representing the number of Africans initially forced onto the slave ship San Juan Bautista for a journey of death and suffering across the Atlantic. A handful of these original 350 ancestors became America’s first enslaved people, according to the announcement issued Friday by the office of city Mayor London Breed.

The sculptural figures will surround the empty pedestal in the park’s Music Concourse where a statue of Francis Scott Key — who owned slaves and wrote disparagingly of Black people — stood before it was toppled by protesters last June.

The installation was approved last week by both the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission’s Operations Committee. It is currently under review by the Planning Commission and will also need approval by the city’s Historical Preservation Committee before it can be installed.

The proposal is for the art to remain for a two-year stay through June 20, 2023.

Ralph Remington, San Francisco’s Director of Cultural Affairs, said:

“We almost never see images of Black people represented in our public monuments, or in the American telling of history.”

Remington added:

“So, it’s no surprise that in a society rooted in white supremacy, people of color remain invisible and undervalued in our mythology, symbols, architecture and national narrative. While the City examines the historic works in our Civic Art Collection and the future of monuments in San Francisco, this installation will help build and advance a discourse about who and what we venerate in our open spaces.”

Fundraising, community outreach and ongoing support for the installation is being provided by the Museum of the African Diaspora.

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