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University students brand Lincoln a “White supremacist,” demand statue’s removal from campus
By Michael Alexander // Jul 12, 2020

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are now calling for the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln on Bascom Hill, purportedly because of its being a symbol of White Supremacy.


The 16th president of the United States, Lincoln famously led the country through the American Civil War as well as freed the country’s slaves through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

He was also anti-Black, according to several student-led organizations in the university.

Just because he was anti-slavery doesn’t mean he was pro-Black,” Nalah McWhorter, the president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union in an interview with Channel 3000, referring to Lincoln’s debate with his opponent Stephen Douglas, in which he was quoted as being opposed to allowing Black residents to vote, become jurors, hold elected offices and marry white people.

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” Lincoln was recorded as saying.

In addition to the Black Student Union, the Student Inclusion Coalition also called for the statue's removal, arguing that Lincoln's legacy includes several actions that harmed people of color, such as the ordering of the largest mass execution in U.S. history, in which 38 Dakota men were hanged, as well as the signing of the Homestead Act, which gave settlers land forcibly taken from Native Americans.


Lincoln also signed the Morrill Act, which established the nation’s land grant universities -- including UW-Madison -- again, by seizing land from Native Americans.

“For him to be at the top of Bascom [Hill] as a powerful placement on our campus, it’s a single-handed symbol of white supremacy,” McWhorter said.

According to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, however, removing Lincoln’s statue and in effect, his legacy, would be a mistake and that it would be much better if people examined and critiqued it instead. (Related: If left uncontrolled, Black Lives Matter mobs may soon target churches, religious monuments.)

"However, when the totality of his tenure is considered, Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of our greatest presidents, having issued the Emancipation Proclamation, persuaded Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment ending slavery and preserved the Union during the Civil War... I believe that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy should not be erased but examined, that it should be both celebrated and critiqued," Blank said.

McWhorter, in an interview, said she does not understand Blank’s response, noting that it made her feel “horrible.”

“For them to want to protect a breathless, lifeless statue more than they care about the experiences of their black students that have been crying out for help for the past 50, 60 years, it’s just a horrible feeling as a student, as a black and brown student on campus,” she said.

As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, this is not the first time that students campaigned for the statue’s removal: In 2015, a different student group called “About Race UW” created a list of demands, including the removal of Lincoln’s statue from Bascom Hill. The idea, however, was promptly abandoned after being seen as “too extreme” within the Black community.

Another attempt in 2017 involved the university’s student government who called for the addition of a plaque recognizing Lincoln’s role in the deaths of the 38 Native Americans. As reported by The Daily Cardinal, however, this motion was shot down by Blank, who noted that Lincoln’s role in the matter was said to be “restrained” and that he had actually refused proposals sent by a territorial governor to sentence 350 other Natives to death.

Boston to remove Lincoln statue from city Square

The protests at UW-Madison regarding the removal of Lincoln’s statue from the university’s premises is not an isolated incident.

Springing from the violence and ruckus caused by the Black Lives Matter movement and its splinter groups, members of the Boston Art Commission voted unanimously earlier this month to remove the city’s copy of Thomas Ball's sculpture "Emancipation Memorial" from Park Square.

Also known as "Freedman's Memorial," the figure, which is a replica of a statue in Washington, DC that was funded by freed slaves, has stood in the Square since 1879.

According to the city’s Arts Commission, Bostonians have spent years calling for the statue to be removed due to its racial depiction of a Black person. The Commission, however, has not determined an exact date for when the statue will be removed, nor have they decided what to put in its place.


"After engaging in a public process, it's clear that residents and visitors to Boston have been uncomfortable with this statue, and its reductive representation of the Black man's role in the abolitionist movement," Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said in the city's statement about the vote.

According to Tory Bullock, the Black man who started the petition, the statue’s removal from the Square presents a great opportunity for local Black artists, whom he would like to see get involved in the creation of a new statue that would best represent equality.

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