Harvard Square Celebrates Juneteenth

Harvard Square Celebrates Juneteenth
with Spotlight, Mirror and Book, a fleeting art installation

Juneteenth or Freedom Day, commemorates the end of enslavement for African descendants of the transatlantic slave trade. While the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 publicly declared the end of slavery in the United States, freedom was not fully realized for enslaved people in Texas until June 19th, 1865.  

To commemorate Juneteenth, the Harvard Square Business Association, in partnership with local artists, Ross Miller and Yolanda He Yang, is installing a fleeting art installation, “Spotlight, Mirror and Book”, in the heart of Harvard Square today at 3pm.  This art installation honors Charles Sumner, an American statesman, United States Senator from Massachusetts and the leader of the anti-slavery forces in the state. In 1856, Sumner was beaten unconscious in the US Senate chambers as a result of his anti-slavery speeches. In his eulogy, he was memorialized as “a ripe scholar, a profound statesman, an honest, earnest defender in the darkest hour, as well as at mid-day of freedom, justice and right”.  

The majestic Charles Sumner statue sits on Massachusetts Avenue, steps away from the historic Harvard Square kiosk. When this sculpture was created in 1903 by artist Anne Whitney, the graceful depiction, soft sculpted book, and seated posture was a bold departure from the style of male sculptors of the day. Today’s installation recognizes Anne Whitney’s grit in fighting against sexism to create a sculpture that carries layers of meaning and value into the modern world. 

Spotlight, Mirror and Book, composed with LED lights and a round metal mirror, will be set up at in front of the statue. The white beam of light reflected from a mirror to the book will appear as the light of day fades away into the night. In March of 2022, He Yang and Miller wrapped this beloved statue to acknowledge the war in Ukraine.

Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, commented, “We are pleased to be working with Ross and Yolanda on this moving installation. Once again, the Sumner statue is creating a moment of deep reflection and attentive focus in a fast-paced world.”