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University of Wisconsin students want Abraham Lincoln statue on campus removed because it's 'a symbol of white supremacy'

A group of university students in Wisconsin are calling for the removal of Abraham Lincoln's statue at their campus, calling it 'a symbol of white supremacy', as Boston's arts commission voted unanimously to remove a statue that depicts a freed slave kneeling at Lincoln's feet.
Boston's Emancipation Memorial, a copy of an identical monument that was erected in Washington, D.C., in 1876, has stood in a park just off Boston Common since 1879.
On Tuesday night the commission approved its removal, after more than 12,000 people signed a petition demanding the statue's removal.

'What I heard today is that it hurts to look at this piece, and in the Boston landscape, we should not have works that bring shame to any groups of people,' said Ekua Holmes, vice chairperson of the arts commission.
'After engaging in a public process, it's clear that residents and visitors to Boston have been uncomfortable with this statue,' said Marty Walsh, mayor of Boston.
Officials did not immediately set a date to take it down, and said details would be worked out at their next meeting on July 14. 
Their decision came as the University of Wisconsin wrestles with complaints over its statue of Lincoln.
That statue, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has sat on top of Bascom Hill, looking down State Street toward the Capitol Dome, since 1906. 
New students rub Lincoln's left shoe for good luck, and his lap often serves as a prop for seniors seeking a commencement photo. 
Yet in light of a wave of statues being pulled down across the country, following George Floyd's May 25 killing and subsequent protests, the Black Student Union and Student Inclusion Committee are calling for Lincoln's removal from their 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,' said Nalah McWhorter, Black Student Union president, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. 
The statue of Abraham Lincoln has stood outside Bascom Hall in Madison, WI, since 1906
The statue of Abraham Lincoln has stood outside Bascom Hall in Madison, WI, since 1906
Nalah McWhorter, Black Student Union president, says Lincoln's statue must come down
Nalah McWhorter, Black Student Union president, says Lincoln's statue must come down
She told the Badger Herald: 'I just think he did, you know, some good things.
'The bad things that he's done definitely outweighs them.
'And I do want the 100 per cent removal of the statue. I don't want it to be moved somewhere or anything like that. I want it removed.' 
A petition to have the statue removed has gained more than 360 signatures.
Last week protesters took matters into their own hands, and two statues at the state Capitol were toppled - one of Civil War abolitionist Hans Christian Heg and another of a female figure that represents the state’s 'Forward' motto. 
Supporters of Lincoln's removal point out that he ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history, condemning 38 Dakota men to death by hanging in Minnesota in 1862. 
He signed the Homestead Act, which provided settlers with land taken away from Native Americans who were pushed onto reservations. 
And they say he was racist, despite being against slavery.
A petition to have the statue removed from University of Wisconsin campus has been started
A petition to have the statue removed from University of Wisconsin campus has been started
In 1854 in Peoria, Illinois, he said: 'My ancient faith teaches me that 'all men are created equal'; and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another.' 
Yet four years later, during a debate speech, he argued that there is a physical difference between black and white races and that he favored the 'superior' position assigned to the white race, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
'There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality,' Lincoln is quoted as saying.
Wisconsin is the home of the Republican Party, which was born out of a movement to end slavery. 
'I think when people say, okay, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves,' said McWhorter.
'I think that's looking at a very small piece of his presidency at the time. 
'So you can kind of see here you freed the slaves, but you also did this and this and this and that. And then when you show that to people, it's kind of hard to deny those facts in history.'  
Paint covers the 'Forward' statue outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on June 2
Paint covers the 'Forward' statue outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on June 2
The 'Forward' statue was toppled on June 23 following a night of protest
The 'Forward' statue was toppled on June 23 following a night of protest
The movement to remove the statue is strongly opposed by the university's chancellor, Rebecca Blank.
'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,' she said. 
In 2015, a different student group called 'About Race UW' created a list of demands, including the removal of Lincoln from Bascom Hill. The idea was abandoned after being seen as 'too extreme' within the black community.
More recently, the university's student government called in 2017 for the addition of a plaque recognizing Lincoln's role in the deaths of the 38 Native Americans.  
Blank declined, saying Lincoln's role in the matter was 'restrained' and he had refused a territorial governor's proposal to sentence 350 others to death.
In the years since, Blank has not changed her position on keeping Lincoln just outside her office in Bascom Hall.
'Like those of all presidents, Lincoln's legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed,' she said. 
Rebecca Blank, the chancellor of the university, does not want Lincoln's statue removed
Rebecca Blank, the chancellor of the university, does not want Lincoln's statue removed
Nalah McWhorter is campaigning for the removal of Lincoln from the university campus
Nalah McWhorter is campaigning for the removal of Lincoln from the university campus
'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.'
Manisha Sinha, a University of Connecticut professor and Civil War historian, said she would be 'horrified' if UW-Madison took Lincoln's statue down. 
She characterized the recent push to expand statue removal beyond Confederate generals and other obvious symbols of slavery to include widely celebrated individuals with complicated pasts, such as slave-owning presidents, as 'misplaced.'
'History is complex and nuanced and a lot of the figures we revere, like (George) Washington or Lincoln, are not perfect in all things,' she said. 
'We should be able to tell that complex story instead of saying, "This guy was all bad and we should get rid of him." 
'You could destroy our entire history because it's based entirely on dispossession of Native Americans.'
Blank said that progress at her university had been made. 
Last summer the university installed a plaque on Bascom Hill acknowledging that the campus was built on Ho-Chunk land, and hired its first tribal relations director in the fall. 
The Wisconsin Union renamed two of its spaces previously named after prominent alumni who, while students in the 1920s, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. 
And a multi-year public history project is underway to collect stories of individuals who experienced and overcame prejudice on campus.
'Everyone agrees that there is much more to do,' Blank said, adding that some new commitments will be announced in early July.
UW-Madison students of color said recent efforts are appreciated but do little to overcome the daily isolation of living on a campus where 2 per cent of the student body is black and less than 1 per cent of students are Native American.
McWhorter, a junior studying marketing and management, said she understands the university is overwhelmed with challenges right now amid the pandemic and associated economic fallout.
'But I do wish to see more action to show that black students do really matter here,' she told the Chicago Tribune
'It’s a lot of talk about how they support us, but I just want to see more done.'

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