Members of a congregation in Indiana are taking extra measures to protect their church after a statue an African-American woman who escaped slavery in the 19th century was defaced last week.
A statue memorializing Lucy Higgs Nichols, a former slave who escaped a life of captivity and became a nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War, was vandalized at the Second Baptist Church in New Albany — just north of Louisville, Kentucky, across the Ohio River.
The statue depicts the former slave escaping captivity with her infant daughter.
WAVE-TV reported the monument was vandalized Friday by someone who wrote “BLM,” an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, in red spray paint.
Other graffiti was spray-painted on the statue as well:
The Lucy Higgs Nichols statue on the grounds of the historic Second Baptist Church in New Albany was vandalized this morning. pic.twitter.com/gh0ryIomnL
— Daniel Suddeath (@DsuddeathNT) July 3, 2020
Second Baptist Church Pastor LeRoy Marshall told WAVE that the almost 170-year-old house of worship was once viewed as a sanctuary of sorts for escaped slaves who were able to make it across the river to freedom.
Marshall also said members of his church, which WAVE reported has a majority black congregation, are upset that the statue was defaced.
“This, this whole situation was really depressing for a lot of our church members,” Marshall told the outlet.
“This is a slap in the face to everybody.”
The Second Baptist Church — which was part of the Underground Railroad, according to the Jeffersonville-based News and Tribune newspaper — has taken measures to restore the statue, including enlisting the monument’s creator to chisel away some of the paint as a temporary solution.
But the church also intends to put the entire property under video surveillance.
A nonprofit group called Friends of the Town Clock Church is currently holding an online fundraiser which will use donations to install security cameras around the church.
The organization’s treasurer, Jerry Finn, said people are stepping up to help.
“All community donations, just people saying, ‘I want to help,” Finn told WAVE. “What it will allow us to do is put cameras in place to monitor the gardens and the church as well.”
“Please join us as the Friends of the Town Clock Church raises funds to install a security system to protect the building and Underground Railroad Gardens. After getting bids, we have increased the fundraising total to be able to purchase this needed equipment to avoid future vandalism,” a GoFundMe page set up by Finn reads.
As of Friday afternoon, the page had raised more that $5,000, but the group reported that a total of $6,600 had been raised when including other donations.
The church hopes to have its new security cameras installed within 10 days.
The desecration of Nichols’ monument comes as monuments and statues — even of those who fought against slavery — have become targets of vandalism across the country.
This past weekend, a statue of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was toppled in Rochester, New York.
Nichols, while not as well known as Douglas, was an important figure in the movement to abolish slavery.
According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, she was born a slave in Tennessee in 1838.
In 1862, during the Civil War, the former slave escaped and joined the 23rd Regiment, Indiana Volunteers as a nurse, where she treated wounded soldiers until the conclusion of the war in 1865.
She settled in New Albany and later petitioned Congress for a pension owed to Civil War nurses, but she was denied.
Several years later, Nichols was finally awarded a pension. She died in 1915.
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