Students Push to Remove UW-Madison's Lincoln Statue

Students say the 16th president's past, which includes racism toward Black Americans and ordering the execution of 38 Dakota men, warrants the removal of his statue on UW-Madison's Bascom Hill.

By Will Kenneally

June 29, 2020 • South Central Region

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Lincoln statue

Statue of Abraham Lincoln on UW-Madison's Bascom Hill. (Courtesy: Flickr user benet2006)

A group of students are calling for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue at the top of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus.

This comes after protesters took down two statues on the state Capitol grounds: one embodying the state’s motto “Forward” and another of Civil War Union Army Col. Hans Christian Heg. The students say despite the former president’s role in the abolition of slavery, he had a racist past in supporting the notion of a “superior” white race.

“I just think he did, you know, some good things…the bad things that he’s done definitely outweighs them,” Nalah McWhorter, president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, told the Badger Herald.

Lincoln was memorialized on the university campus for his role in creating land grant universities, of which UW-Madison is one. The land for the campuses was largely seized from Native American tribes in 1862 through the Morrill Act. Lincoln also ordered the execution of 38 Dakota men that same year.

The students say the sum of the former president’s actions warrant taking down the statue.

“And I do want the 100% removal of the statue. I don’t want it to be moved somewhere or anything like that. I want it removed,” McWhorter said.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank called Lincoln’s legacy complex, and said the statue should remain.

“I believe that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy should not be erased, but examined, that it should be both celebrated and critiqued,” Blank said in a statement. “Without Lincoln, public land-grant universities like ours might not exist. These universities have been engines of social mobility and economic growth for citizens who would never otherwise have had access to higher education.”

This comes as the university saw African-American and Native American enrollment at 2.79% and 0.95% respectively in the spring semester.

Blank said she would be moving forward with forthcoming “actions and commitments” to address systemic racism on campus. Previous efforts to address the history of the statue in the past few years have failed.

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