Foster's statue was sculpted by Italian born artist Giuseppe Moretti (1857-1935). Moretti is best known for his 56-foot iron Vulcan statue in Birmingham Alabama. In 1900, using money from a public fundraising drive, the Pittsburgh Press commissioned Moretti to erect a statue of the composer in Schenley Plaza of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The statue is not only of Foster, though, and that is where the controversy comes into place. The statue shows Foster sitting on a chair writing songs and sitting next to him, at his feet, is a poorly dressed and barefooted African American playing a banjo. Many believe that this is supposed to be the Uncle Ned from Foster's song. According to the book Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture, the design was suggested by Press editor T.J. Keenan, who imagined Foster catching the inspiration for his melodies from the fingers of an old darkey reclining at his feet strumming negro airs upon an old banjo1. The statue for many years has been considered racist by the community and officials and many plans to have the statue removed have been considered.
“It’s the single most offensive display of public art in Pittsburgh, hands down, It permanently depicts the black man at the white man’s feet.”- Paradise Gray, hiphop activist, musician and writer.Mark Brently Sr, an African Amercian member of the Pittsburgh school board also showed his dislike for the statue.
It's just offensive on every level imaginable. I just wish I had a pickup truck strong enough because I would pull [the statue] off with a chain. ... It is a mirror of this city's policy [toward] and treatment of people of color.-Mark Brently Sr.On April 26, 2018 the city finally decided to have the statue removed from its location. It was not destroyed, but its new location has yet to be decided.