‘It’s a slap in the face,’ pastor says after seeing desecration of escaped slave statue

The Statue of Lucy Higgs Nichols defaced by vandals.
The Statue of Lucy Higgs Nichols defaced by vandals. | Screenshot/Facebook

After a 170-year old New Albany church in Indiana saw its statue honoring a woman who escaped slavery after the Civil War defaced with “BLM” graffiti, its pastor spoke out, calling the vandalism “a slap in the face to everybody.”

“This whole situation was really depressing for a lot of our church members,” Pastor LeRoy Marshall told Wave3 News on Friday, a week after someone spray-painted the letters “BLM” and other designs on the nine-foot-tall limestone sculpture of Lucy Higgs Nichols, a Civil War nurse, and her infant daughter, Mona.

“This is a slap in the face to everybody,” Marshall added.

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While the sculptor and restorationist David Ruckman chiseled the paint away soon after it was defaced, a sense of loss remained prevalent among the congregation.

“Though our ‘Lucy’ is just a commemorative block of sculpted stone, she represents so much more – as an escaped enslaved African American woman who worked diligently at her on peril and the cost of the life of her daughter nursing Union Indiana white soldiers injured during the Civil War,” Friends of the Town Clock Church, a local nonprofit, said on its Facebook page.

The church is also known as the Town Clock Church and Second Baptist Church.

“Hate in our community has surfaced with the vandalism of the Lucy Higgs Nichols sculpture in the Underground Railroad Gardens,” it added.

“I will say to the person who did this: This doesn’t help anything,” Marshall told WDRB. “This throws a log on a fire that’s already burning, and we don’t need this kind of situation.”

Friends of the Town Clock Church is now raising funds to install a security system to protect the building and Underground Railroad Gardens.

To escape slavery, Nichols, an African American woman, fled Tennessee in 1862 to a regiment of Indiana volunteers and served them as a nurse during the Civil War. She was the first African American woman to get a pension from Congress for her service.

Last July when the statue was unveiled, sculptor Ruckman told News and Tribune that Nichols “has a great, unbelievable story.”

“She’s looking for a way to the left, where she’s looking at what might be coming toward her. She can’t afford to get caught. She’s running away to another place. That was New Albany. She is one of New Albany’s residents, and now one of New Albany’s most famous residents. We’re pleased to bring Ms. Lucy to life and bring her back into the sun.”

“For one thing, she was an African American woman who served with a white infantry,” added Alice Miles, president of Friends of the Town Clock Church. “She was respected enough, even back then, that they gave her the pension and all the things she deserved. The bravery that she had to have to even enter herself into that arena, that speaks volumes to her strength and fortitude.”

Nichols stayed in New Albany until her death in 1915 and was a member of the Town Clock Church congregation.

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