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Student activists call for Lincoln, other monuments to be removed from UW campus

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Controversy is developing at UW-Madison around one of the campus's most iconic fixtures.

As far as historical figures go, most people might consider Honest Abe worthy of a statue -- but Nalah McWhorter would tell you what you probably learned about the 16th President of the United States is only part of the story.

"I grew up thinking Abraham Lincoln was this great president, and this really great figure that freed the slaves, because that's what I was taught in high school," she said. "But the Emancipation Proclamation was just a small part."

McWhorter is the president of UW's Black Student Union, and while Lincoln did free the slaves, she says his legacy is much more complicated.

"He signed a lot of acts, like The Homestead Act, The Railway Act, that displaced a lot of Native Americans, displaced them off their land," she said. "Although he freed the slaves, he freed them and gave them no rights, no reparations."

The Black Student Union is now calling on UW to remove Lincoln from Bascom Hill, where he's overlooked part of campus and much of Madison for more than 100 years.

"We want to see the complete removal of Abraham Lincoln," she said.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a statement that said, in part:

The university continues to support the Abraham Lincoln statue on our campus. Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed.  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.

McWhorter says the statement isn't enough -- she and her peers want full removal of the statue.

"I just don't think that they generally care about us," McWhorter said. "I don't think that they listen to us and hear us for what we want."

Lincoln isn't the only thing the activists want to see removed from campus.

What now is called "Charmberlin Rock" used to go by a different name, as evidenced by a newspaper headline from when it was dug up.

"It says, 'Dig Up Huge N*****head," McWhorter said. "And so for that to be just renamed and still sit on campus, I really think that is absolutely inappropriate for it to still be there."

McWhorter says the Black Student Union has been campaigning for the removal of both monuments for about a month, and they do not plan to stop their campaign anytime soon.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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