Henry Ward Beecher (6/24/1813-3/8/1887) earned a nationwide reputation as a dramatic preacher. Based at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn (75 Hicks St., not far from this sculpture), he became a prominent abolitionist in the 1850s - like his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the bestselling Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Beecher criticized the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the expansion of slavery into western territories such as Kansas. (Guns sent there were ironically referred to as "Beecher's Bibles," for their power to "convert" those who were pro-slavery.) He supported Abraham Lincoln, campaigned for the Emancipation Proclamation, and toured England to persuade that country not to side with the Confederates. The slave girl on the left side of the pedestal is a nod to Beecher's prominent role as an abolitionist.
In 1872 - when he was a nationally recognized civic leader and preacher, particularly known for his appeal to the middle class - radical feminist Victoria Woodhull accused Beecher of having committed adultery with the wife of the editor of a religious newspaper. The resultant church and civil trials were a media circus. Beecher was exonerated by a hung jury. It didn't notably diminish his popularity: in 1875, he traveled 27,000 miles by rail to speaking engagements in the U.S. and Canada, earning $60,000.
Contemporary George William Curtis, editor of Harper's Weekly, described Beecher as a man
For more on Beecher, including book recommendations, see Clifford E. Clark, "Beecher, Henry Ward," American National Biography Online [subscription required]; Access Date: Sun Jul 05 2015 08:04:44 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time).
You can get a sense of the style of Beecher's mind, and what mattered to him, on Wikiquote. Religion is extremely important to him - but not to me, so I haven't included quotes on it.