Restricted Stephen Foster Monument Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

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Stephen Foster Monument
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania​
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Irving Berlin said, “The songs of Stephen Foster …have been a source of inspiration to every writer of popular songs.” After his death in 1864, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine proclaimed, “The air is full of his melodies. They are our national music.”

He wrote over 300 compositions. Twenty six of those as black minstrels- including his best known “Oh Susanna” which sold over 100,000 copies after the 21 year old published it. James Taylor recorded the song in 1970 on his album “Sweet Baby James” and Laura Ingalls Wilder printed a verse from it in her book, “Little House on the Prairie.” His most popular song, however, was “Old Folks at Home” better known as “Suwannee River”, which conveys a sentiment that has almost universal appeal “…yearning for lost home, youth, family and happiness.” His most groundbreaking composition was “Nelly Was A Lady” published in 1849. It is the first known song for the mass market to name an African-American woman as a “lady” and to portray a married African-American couple as a faithful, loving husband and wife destroyed by slavery.

In 1855, abolitionist Frederick Douglass made this remark concerning Foster’s songs “Old Kentucky Home” and “Uncle Ned”, the tunes “can make the heart sad as well as merry and can call forth a tear as well as a smile. They awaken the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish.”

The design of the sculpture was done by a committee that included Andrew Mellon. The Siena Italy born Giuseppe Moretti was chosen as the artist. Once completed, nearly 50,000 Pittsburghers lined the parade route for the dedication in 1900 and 3,000 school children sang Foster tunes before his daughter unveiled the statue and descendants of President James Buchanan laid a wreath at its base.

In 2000, Mayor Tom Murphy formed a task force to determine the future of the sculpture. In 2017, Pittsburgh’s Art Commission held public hearings and in 2018 it was decided by the commission – by unanimous vote – to remove the sculpture. In a 2010 interview, a Pittsburgh Public School Board member remarked, “It’s just offensive on every level imaginable. It is a mirror of this city’s policy [toward] and treatment of people of color.”

In a special on Stephen Foster produced by PBS for its American Experience audience the network included this statement, “ His [Foster’s] intention was to write the people’s music, using images and a musical vocabulary that would be widely understood by all groups …[He] sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another and to convey a sense that all people … regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class – share the same longings and needs for family and home.”
 

DanSBHawk

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Joined
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Location
Wisconsin
Stephen Foster Monument
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania​
View attachment 392106
Irving Berlin said, “The songs of Stephen Foster …have been a source of inspiration to every writer of popular songs.” After his death in 1864, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine proclaimed, “The air is full of his melodies. They are our national music.”

He wrote over 300 compositions. Twenty six of those as black minstrels- including his best known “Oh Susanna” which sold over 100,000 copies after the 21 year old published it. James Taylor recorded the song in 1970 on his album “Sweet Baby James” and Laura Ingalls Wilder printed a verse from it in her book, “Little House on the Prairie.” His most popular song, however, was “Old Folks at Home” better known as “Suwannee River”, which conveys a sentiment that has almost universal appeal “…yearning for lost home, youth, family and happiness.” His most groundbreaking composition was “Nelly Was A Lady” published in 1849. It is the first known song for the mass market to name an African-American woman as a “lady” and to portray a married African-American couple as a faithful, loving husband and wife destroyed by slavery.

In 1855, abolitionist Frederick Douglass made this remark concerning Foster’s songs “Old Kentucky Home” and “Uncle Ned”, the tunes “can make the heart sad as well as merry and can call forth a tear as well as a smile. They awaken the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish.”

The design of the sculpture was done by a committee that included Andrew Mellon. The Siena Italy born Giuseppe Moretti was chosen as the artist. Once completed, nearly 50,000 Pittsburghers lined the parade route for the dedication in 1900 and 3,000 school children sang Foster tunes before his daughter unveiled the statue and descendants of President James Buchanan laid a wreath at its base.

In 2000, Mayor Tom Murphy formed a task force to determine the future of the sculpture. In 2017, Pittsburgh’s Art Commission held public hearings and in 2018 it was decided by the commission – by unanimous vote – to remove the sculpture. In a 2010 interview, a Pittsburgh Public School Board member remarked, “It’s just offensive on every level imaginable. It is a mirror of this city’s policy [toward] and treatment of people of color.”

In a special on Stephen Foster produced by PBS for its American Experience audience the network included this statement, “ His [Foster’s] intention was to write the people’s music, using images and a musical vocabulary that would be widely understood by all groups …[He] sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another and to convey a sense that all people … regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class – share the same longings and needs for family and home.”
The opposition to this statue seems to have been more about the composition than about Foster being good or bad. From an article at the time, two years ago:

"Many residents have held that the sculpture — showing a shoeless African-American banjo player seated at the famed composer’s feet — is condescending or outright racist. Speakers at commission meetings last year largely agreed.​
'Obviously, it was popular and meaningful to the people of Pittsburgh back when it was placed' in 1900, Peduto spokesman Timothy McNulty said. Clearly, he said, time shifted the public’s view."​

https://www.post-gazette.com/local/...ighland-Park-Bill-Peduto/stories/201804260091
 

Quaama

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Port Macquarie, Australia
Thanks to the OP for posting as you encouraged to to find out more about him. I was not aware of Stephen Foster but I knew of, and like, a number of his tunes. As a horse racing person, do they still sing 'Old Kentucky Town' at the Kentucky Derby? [I seem to remember the crowd used to sing along with it.]

Yet another public monument removed to satisfy the PC crowd.
Where is it now? In storage somewhere probably never to see the light of day again.
What has replaced it? Nothing! Apparently, the Arts Commission that decided to condemn and remove it can not agree on anything to replace it despite receiving public submissions.
 
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mo
Would think if being protrayed a banjo player is somehow offensive to black's, they should simply replace the head of the banjo player with a more caucasian head........

 
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DanSBHawk

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The issue with these old statues that portray a white and a non-white, is not necessarily that the white is unworthy of honor. The problem is that the white is often portrayed standing tall and dignified, while the non-white is shown undignified on the ground at the feet of the white.

In addition to this Foster statue, that has been the issue with statues of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lewis and Clark. Probably some others, too.
 
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mo
The issue with these old statues that portray a white and a non-white, is not necessarily that the white is unworthy of honor. The problem is that the white is often portrayed standing tall and dignified, while the non-white is shown undignified on the ground at the feet of the white.

In addition to this Foster statue, that has been the issue with statues of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lewis and Clark. Probably some others, too.
To be offended simply seems to show to me the offended is racist.

If it depicted a white banjo player seated beneath him it would be a non issue honestly, so without a racist attitude I view an african american seated as a non issue as well, as I would any other race as well.

It's the viewer bringing any racist ideology, not the statue....it shows simply a composer with a musician. The race of the musician is and frankly should be irrelevant. As I suggested simply replace the banjo players head and no one would be offended......

Also from statues I have seen, from many eras, that depict multiple people, is it not rather common practice to put the subject being honored in the most prominent position? Often elevated? That has nothing to with race..
 
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DanSBHawk

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To be offended simply seems to show to me the offended is racist.

If it depicted a white banjo player seated beneath him it would be a non issue honestly, so without a racist attitude I view an african american seated as a non issue as well, as I would any other race as well.

It's the viewer bringing any racist ideology, not the statue....it shows simply a composer with a musician. The race of the musician is and frankly should be irrelevant. As I suggested simply replace the banjo players head and no one would be offended......

Also from statues I have seen, from many eras, that depict multiple people, is it not rather common practice to put the subject being honored in the most prominent position? Often elevated? That has nothing to with race..
Spoken as someone who has never experienced the other side of the issue.
 
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mo
Spoken as someone who has never experienced the other side of the issue.
Indeed that would be non racist, as racism would be only be looking at things through some racial prism......would think viewing races as "sides" for example would be inheritly racist.

One realisticly can't say they want to be treated the same ......but then say they actually don't want to be treated the same.....it's rather self defeating.....
 
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DanSBHawk

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Indeed that would be non racist, as racism would be only be looking at things through some racial prism......would think viewing races as "sides" for example would be inheritly racist.

One realisticly can't say they want to be treated the same ......but then say they actually don't want to be treated the same.....it's rather self defeating.....
If people make no effort to understand and emphasize with people different from themselves and with different life experiences, then these statue issues will continue to confound and frustrate them.

At times it seems people put more effort into intentionally misunderstanding than in trying to understand others opinions.
 
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mo
If people make no effort to understand and emphasize with people different from themselves and with different life experiences, then these statue issues will continue to confound and frustrate them.

At times it seems people put more effort into intentionally misunderstanding than in trying to understand others opinions.
I agree, people assuming everything is somehow racist is indeed trying to intentionally trying to misunderstand and falsely attribute motives that there is no evidence of. They seem to wish to attribute opinions to others that there is actually no evidence of.

For example to imply the Stephen Foster statue was racist or intended to be racist would go to Giuseppi Moretti"s or Stephen Fosters character and intent........yet there is no evidence of racist character or ill intent on their part provided at all. So any ill intent is being provided by the critic attitudes, not the subject, sculptor and artwork.

If anything those often being attacked nowadays......Lincoln and Foster for example, while perhaps not perfect by today's standards, were actually rather enlightened in their eras........to suggest otherwise would go to your "putting effort into intentionally misunderstanding than in trying to understand others opinions"

I certainly recognize some things today and past were/are racially motivated...I just look at each instance individually rather then assuming something is, without any evidence it actually was.........
 
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Quaama

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I agree, people assuming everything is somehow racist is indeed trying to intentionally trying to misunderstand and falsely attribute motives that there is no evidence of. They seem to wish to attribute opinions to others that there is actually no evidence of.

For example to imply the Stephen Foster statue was racist or intended to be racist would go to Giuseppi Moretti"s or Stephen Fosters character and intent........yet there is no evidence of racist character or ill intent on their part provided at all. So any ill intent is being provided by the critic attitudes, not the sculptor and artwork.

Exactly.
 

DanSBHawk

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I agree, people assuming everything is somehow racist is indeed trying to intentionally trying to misunderstand and falsely attribute motives that there is no evidence of. They seem to wish to attribute opinions to others that there is actually no evidence of.

For example to imply the Stephen Foster statue was racist or intended to be racist would go to Giuseppi Moretti"s or Stephen Fosters character and intent........yet there is no evidence of racist character or ill intent on their part provided at all. So any ill intent is being provided by the critic attitudes, not the subject, sculptor and artwork.
No, in this case, it's not about the intent or motives of the sculptor, or of the subject. It's about how the art is perceived by the modern day viewer.

Art has always been subject to differences in how it's perceived, and art that is considered fine by some people, may be considered offensive or obscene or otherwise objectionable to others.

You can judge others badly for their perception, or you can try to understand their perception of the art. But there is no single solitary perception that is objectively correct. You may feel that yours is the only right way to view it, but it doesn't work that way and never will.
 
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mo
No, in this case, it's not about the intent or motives of the sculptor, or of the subject. It's about how the art is perceived by the modern day viewer.

Art has always been subject to differences in how it's perceived, and art that is considered fine by some people, may be considered offensive or obscene or otherwise objectionable to others.

You can judge others badly for their perception, or you can try to understand their perception of the art. But there is no single solitary perception that is objectively correct. You may feel that yours is the only right way to view it, but it doesn't work that way and never will.
As I said if a viewer interprets a statue as racist, that wasn't meant to be, it reflects their racist views, no one else's. I suppose your correct a viewer has a "right" to be racist and interpret things that way if they wish.......but it's rather disingenuous for them then to attribute their personal interpretation to Foster, Moretti, or the statue. Which the latter is the height of absurdity....as a piece of rock or metal has no view at all.......so it's incapable of being "racist"......so it's really simply unfounded criticism of the sculptor or Foster.
 
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DanSBHawk

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As I said if a viewer interprets a statue as racist, that wasn't meant to be, it reflects their racist views, no one else's. I suppose your correct a viewer has a "right" to be racist and interpret things that way if they wish.......but it's rather disingenuous for them then to attribute their personal interpretation to Foster, Moretti, or the statue. Which the latter is the height of absurdity....as a piece of rock or metal has no view at all.......so it's incapable of being "racist"......so it's really simply unfounded criticism of the sculptor or Foster.
I never said anything about a viewer having the "right" to be racist.

I can't put it any clearer and simpler than my previous post, so I'll let that sum up my opinion. Feel free to carry on with expressing your own opinion, but don't mischaracterize mine.
 
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mo
I never said anything about a viewer having the "right" to be racist.

I can't put it any clearer and simpler than my previous post, so I'll let that sum up my opinion. Feel free to carry on with expressing your own opinion, but don't mischaracterize mine.
It's actually what you did say, unless you have evidence a viewers "perception of racism" was shared by Foster or Moretti.....as it certainly isn't by a piece of metal ......the only "racism" is on the part of the perceiver.
 

PapaReb

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Arkansas CSA occupied
No, in this case, it's not about the intent or motives of the sculptor, or of the subject. It's about how the art is perceived by the modern day viewer.

Art has always been subject to differences in how it's perceived, and art that is considered fine by some people, may be considered offensive or obscene or otherwise objectionable to others.

You can judge others badly for their perception, or you can try to understand their perception of the art. But there is no single solitary perception that is objectively correct. You may feel that yours is the only right way to view it, but it doesn't work that way and never will.
I completely understand your opinion but would comment that “understanding their perception” should be a two way street.
 
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Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
Stephen Foster Monument
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania​
View attachment 392106
Irving Berlin said, “The songs of Stephen Foster …have been a source of inspiration to every writer of popular songs.” After his death in 1864, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine proclaimed, “The air is full of his melodies. They are our national music.”

He wrote over 300 compositions. Twenty six of those as black minstrels- including his best known “Oh Susanna” which sold over 100,000 copies after the 21 year old published it. James Taylor recorded the song in 1970 on his album “Sweet Baby James” and Laura Ingalls Wilder printed a verse from it in her book, “Little House on the Prairie.” His most popular song, however, was “Old Folks at Home” better known as “Suwannee River”, which conveys a sentiment that has almost universal appeal “…yearning for lost home, youth, family and happiness.” His most groundbreaking composition was “Nelly Was A Lady” published in 1849. It is the first known song for the mass market to name an African-American woman as a “lady” and to portray a married African-American couple as a faithful, loving husband and wife destroyed by slavery.

In 1855, abolitionist Frederick Douglass made this remark concerning Foster’s songs “Old Kentucky Home” and “Uncle Ned”, the tunes “can make the heart sad as well as merry and can call forth a tear as well as a smile. They awaken the sympathies for the slave, in which anti-slavery principles take root and flourish.”

The design of the sculpture was done by a committee that included Andrew Mellon. The Siena Italy born Giuseppe Moretti was chosen as the artist. Once completed, nearly 50,000 Pittsburghers lined the parade route for the dedication in 1900 and 3,000 school children sang Foster tunes before his daughter unveiled the statue and descendants of President James Buchanan laid a wreath at its base.

In 2000, Mayor Tom Murphy formed a task force to determine the future of the sculpture. In 2017, Pittsburgh’s Art Commission held public hearings and in 2018 it was decided by the commission – by unanimous vote – to remove the sculpture. In a 2010 interview, a Pittsburgh Public School Board member remarked, “It’s just offensive on every level imaginable. It is a mirror of this city’s policy [toward] and treatment of people of color.”

In a special on Stephen Foster produced by PBS for its American Experience audience the network included this statement, “ His [Foster’s] intention was to write the people’s music, using images and a musical vocabulary that would be widely understood by all groups …[He] sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another and to convey a sense that all people … regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class – share the same longings and needs for family and home.”
Excellent post. Thank you. I suppose we all have our favorite Foster song ..... mine is “Was my brother in the battle”.
 
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