The Embrace and the 1965 Freedom Plaza by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group
Photo courtesy of Skanska
The Embrace is an important cultural symbol of equity and justice for Boston residents and all those who visit the city and region. The artwork is a long-term memorial representing the Kings’ time and powerful presence in Boston, a time that helped shape their approach to an equitable society. More than five years in the making, The Embrace is a physical reflection of Boston’s diversity.
The bronze sculpture is:
and is made up of approximately 609 individual pieces.
It was built at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington state. The memorial is designed and landscaped with sensitivity to how it fits within the context of the Boston Common. The memorial is sited to preserve robust existing trees and scaled to be below their canopy, with additional trees added to the plaza. It is the first new public artwork in Boston Common in more than 30 years.
The sculpture is grounded in a 6,000 square-foot circular plaza. This plaza features granite custom-shaped pavers, benches, and wall elements fabricated by Quarra Stone Company. Made up of over 1,300 granite stone pieces in six different finishes, the diamond-shaped pavers evoke African-American quilt making traditions. The pattern symbolizes unity and collectivism, echoing a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. from his letter from Birmingham Jail in Birmingham, AL, in 1963:
“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
The 1965 Freedom Plaza that supports The Embrace honors 69 local civil rights leaders active between 1950-1970. These leaders reflect the broad range of cultural and lived experiences of the people that make up Greater Boston. The plaza highlights the stories of the Boston people who marched with King during the 1965 Freedom Rally, which ended at the Boston Common. The honorees are commemorated with a bronze plaque embedded within the plaza. The Embrace uses the font “Martin,” designed by Black creator Tré Seals, named after Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
The plaza is framed by two circular bench walls that rise from the granite. The benches nestle the space to foster intimacy. One wall features a quote from Coretta Scott King that builds on the memorial’s focus on love as key to making the change we want to see. This public archive uplifts hidden and under-told stories of Boston’s rich history and provides community members with deeper insight into Boston’s Black and Brown history.
Photo courtesy of Skanska.