“Not Pro-Black”: Wisconsin Students Unanimously Vote To Remove Lincoln Statue As Racist

We previously discussed the effort at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to have the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln removed as racist.  The student government has now voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that calls for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue on campus. The students declared that the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, advocated for the 13th Amendment, and led the war against the South and slavery was “not pro-Black” and a “remnant of White Supremacy.”  That would likely have come as something of a surprise to John Wilkes Booth.

One issue that was raised by student is that Lincoln ordered the execution of 38 Dakota men and signed the Homestead Act, which gave settlers land forcibly taken from Native Americans.

1904paintingAttackNewUlmAntonGagAs I previously discussed, Lincoln’s role in the Dakota executions is legitimately controversial but has been presented without some countervailing facts.  The Sioux or Dakota uprising occurred not long after Minnesota became a state and involved the death of hundreds of settlers.  The Army crushed the Sioux and captured hundreds.  A military tribunal sentenced 303 to death for alleged crimes against civilians and other crimes.  The trial itself was a farce with no real representation or reliable evidence.  Lincoln reviewed the transcripts of the 303 and told the Senate:

“Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I ordered a careful examination of the records of the trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females.”

However, only two men were found guilty of rape and Lincoln later expanded the criteria to include those who participated in “massacres” of civilians as opposed to battles with the Army.

Lincoln however commuted the sentence of 264 of the 303 convicted.

This is not the first time Lincoln has faced the ire of some in Wisconsin. When Lincoln called the nation to war against the South, many in Wisconsin did not support the cause and rioted against Lincoln.  Ultimately, however, Wisconsin sent multiple regiments who fought valiantly in the War and sacrificed much to defeat both the South and slavery.

Having a statue to a leader like Lincoln is not an endorsement of his entire legacy. I have heavily criticized Lincoln for the unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus and the loss of free speech rights as well as other decisions.  We learn from such public memorials, which can be augmented with a more full historical context and criticism.  However, to say that Lincoln is a symbol of white supremacy ignores his pivotal role in fighting slavery, a cause for which he would ultimately give his own life.

Here is the  petition in support of keeping the statue where it is if you want to support Old Abe.

118 thoughts on ““Not Pro-Black”: Wisconsin Students Unanimously Vote To Remove Lincoln Statue As Racist”

  1. “not pro-Black”

    If Lincoln was pro-Black, he would not be treating people as equals. He believed the Declaration of Independence when it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Equal is the balanced scales of Lady Justice. Equal means no one is above the law or that some pigs are ‘more equal’ than others. Equal means we bow to no one.

  2. Some good quotes and questions have surfaced on this thread. The last Senate speech of Jefferson Davis (21 January 1861) and Lincoln’s Inaugural reply (4 March 1861) are essential background reading:

    https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/DavisSpeech1861.pdf

    https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/march-4-1861-first-inaugural-address

    The American right wing now finds itself defending an Originalist legacy – from Athens, Jerusalem, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett – against accusations of racial backwardness. At issue is Lincoln and where we gauge ourselves today, as a government of the people and as individuals, in relation to his towering intellect, character and Constitutionalism. Are his words still ahead of us in caliber, still leading a heroic charge for harmonious multiracial Union against forces of despotism, on the one hand, and anarchy, on the other? Or has Lincoln truly fallen seven score and three-times-five out of step behind us, in death and emancipated soul-time?

    If antipathy to Lincoln is now a badge of the Left, many of us who leaned left in our youth are now growing rightward. We may or may not vote for President Trump in this election, and for a Republican Senator in the swing states, but Republicanism will regather itself after the Great Pandemic of 2020-2021, and we may well be part of that remaking.

Leave a Reply