Boston’s Black soldiers monument returning after $3M restoration

The bronze relief at the center the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial is expected to be hoisted back into place Wednesday on the Boston Common.

Luciano Caruso and Martin Sylvester work on the restoration of the The Robert Gould Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial at Skylight Studios in Woburn.
Luciano Caruso and Martin Sylvester work on the restoration of the The Robert Gould Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial at Skylight Studios in Woburn. –David L Ryan/Globe Staff

BOSTON (AP) — A monument honoring a famed Civil War unit of Black soldiers is returning to downtown Boston, following a $3 million restoration.

The bronze relief at the center the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial is expected to be hoisted back into place Wednesday on the Boston Common across from the Statehouse with the help of a crane.

The relief has been undergoing restoration for months at a studio in Woburn. Crews have also been onsite working to restore the monument’s marble and stone foundation. Officials say the project is on track to be substantially complete sometime next month.

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Long considered one of the nation’s greatest sculptures, the Shaw Memorial captures the stirring call to arms answered by Black soldiers who served in the unit, which was popularized in the 1989 Oscar-winning movie “Glory.”

American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens spent 14 years creating the monument, unveiling it to fanfare in 1897.

But the work is also among those that has faced scrutiny amid last year’s national reckoning on racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The work depicts Shaw, the unit’s white commanding officer, riding on horseback while his Black soldiers walk in the background, a dynamic that some suggest is problematic.

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