For the last several weeks, the media has been flooded with news about cities and protesters across the nation tearing down statues and monuments that are believed to represent the racism in America’s history.
Students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have been inspired by progressive activists’ efforts.
The university’s Black Student Union and the Student Inclusion Coalition started a petition on Change.org in early June calling on school leaders to remove an iconic statue of former President Abraham Lincoln from the Bascom Hill quadrangle at the center of the campus.
“For him to be at the top of Bascom as a powerful placement on our campus, it’s a single-handed symbol of white supremacy,” Black Student Union president Nalah McWhorter told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Despite the fact that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed slaves in rebellious states, the two organizations at UW-Madison remained adamant in their stance on removing the statue.
— Student Inclusion Coalition of UW-Madison (@SICofUW) June 13, 2020
The petition, which has received about 350 signatures, fails to mention Lincoln’s efforts to end slavery during his term, instead aiming its focus on the fact that the statue was donated to the university by Thomas Brittingham Jr., whom it says was a “known member” of the Klu Klux Klan, and Richard Lloyd Jones, who was “well-known for holding ultra-racist beliefs,” according to the petition.
In addition to the information regarding where the statue came from, the petition also questions Lincoln’s own “history with race relations.”
While the two organizations have been informing their peers about Lincoln’s alleged transgressions regarding racism, university Chancellor Rebecca Blank doesn’t agree with their stance.
“Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed,” Blank said in a statement, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“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.
“As the leader of UW-Madison, I believe that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy should not be erased but examined, that it should be both celebrated and critiqued.”
While Blank is working to make sure that the statue on the campus is not torn down and forgotten, officials in Boston are acting to remove a Lincoln memorial in that city.
In mid-June, Boston resident Tory Bullock put a petition together that has more than 12,000 signatures in support of tearing down the Emancipation Memorial in Boston’s Park Square.
“My problem is with the person in front of [Lincoln], the person that’s supposed to represent me and my people,” Bullock said. “He’s not clothed, he’s in chains, it’s just not a good representation for something that’s supposed to represent equality and the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Unlike Blank and her position on the Lincoln statue, Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, is in full support of ridding the city of the Emancipation Memorial.
The Boston Art Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the memorial.
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