Walking trail floated to highlight Mandela’s 1990 Boston visit

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – The commission created in 2016 to look into ways to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit to Boston has filed its interim report, indicating that it favors an approach similar to the popular Freedom Trail that would connect three locations Mandela visited in the city.

When Mandela, who had been released from prison in South Africa just months earlier, visited Boston on June 23, 1990, he made three primary stops: a speech at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, a luncheon at the John F. Kennedy Library in Columbia Point, and a public event and concert on the Esplanade. The Mandela Memorial Commission wrote in a report placed on file with the House clerk’s office Monday that it likes the idea of a walking trail connecting the three locations but wants to create a design subcommittee that can administer a design contest, select a memorial site or sites, and raise money to fund the eventual proposal.

“After much discussion the Commission favored a Mandela ‘walk’ approach which would include all three locations and would be based on the present ‘Freedom Trail’ walk provided to visitors to the City,” co-chairs Jackie Jenkins-Scott and Mary Tiseo wrote. “However, the Commission also questions whether this concept might have its limitations and that, therefore, the decision should be delayed at this time by the Commission since the Design Competition may well include all three (or perhaps two) sites (Madison Park High School and the Esplanade) and that the results of that competition should establish whether there would be just one or multiple sites.”

The commission said the federal involvement at the JFK Museum could make placing a memorial there more complicated. The group said the museum is willing to discuss adding a small Mandela display to reference the Kennedy family’s “involvement in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.”

The challenges at the Esplanade include the lack of “a firmly identified site that is situated close to the Hatch Shell (where Mandela spoke)” and the fact that the Department of Conservation and Recreation “is disinclined to support the installation of statues of any kind on the Esplanade,” the commission wrote and suggested that the Esplanade remains in consideration.

At Madison Park High School, the commission said it could envision “an active and attractive tree covered plaza” in front of the school. The commission was created by a 2016 resolve after South Africa Partners, a local nonprofit, joined with the Madison Park High School Committee and a group of South Africans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Mandela’s visit to Boston.

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