Civil rights icon and St. Louisan Frankie Muse Freeman was recently honored with a statue in Downtown St. Louis’ newly remodeled Kiener Plaza. Dedicated by the St. Louis City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Nov. 21, the larger-than-life statue sculpted by artist Brian Owens was surrounded by local leaders and Freeman herself, as well as her friends and family, at the ceremony.
“It was great,” says Adolphus Pruitt, President of the St. Louis City NAACP, of the dedication event. In addition to Freeman, politicians such as Mayor Lyda Krewson, Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill were in attendance. Since then, “we have been actually going down and observing and seeing how folks migrate to the statue.” He notes his joy over visitors not only paying attention to the statue itself, but reading the inscription to learn more about Freeman and her work.
Freeman, a civil rights attorney who owned her own private practice, became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1964. She is also credited as helping to end St. Louis’ legal public housing segregation. Despite just celebrating her 101st birthday, she is still involved with local organizations such as the NAACP and Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
A few weeks after the event, Pruitt explains the statue is serving its purpose of engaging visitors and educating the public. “It’s doing exactly what we’d hoped it would do: to be a point of attraction,” he says. “And, to the same degree, to [be] a piece of public artwork in the city’s best Downtown public open space…[Having] a statue representing the work of an African American and a woman, it’s sort of a first in St. Louis in some regard.”