Student Activists Want Abraham Lincoln Statue Removed From University Campus

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

Student activists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are calling for administrators to “remove and replace” a statue of Abraham Lincoln, which has been sitting on the university’s campus since 1909.

An online petition calling for the century-old statue’s removal has been circulating among UW-Madison community members over the past weeks. The statue, according to the university’s alumni association, is a replica of one erected in Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky. Richard Lloyd Jones, an alumni, worked with prominent UW donor Thomas E. Brittingham to purchase the statue and donated it to the university.

The petition took a particular issue with the two people, claiming that Jones was an “ultra-racist” responsible for a news article that led to the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, which killed 12 people and injured 800. Brittingham, as the petition pointed out, is a known member of the Ku Klux Klan.

When it comes to Abraham Lincoln, however, the student who created the petition ignored the 16th president’s many legacies, saying dismissively that he has a “questionable history with race relations.”

“This statue has nothing to do with the creation and continuation of education on UW-Madison’s campus and was merely a gift of political capital,” it states. “We ask that the university consider removing the statue from Bascom and direct funding towards a new installation acknowledging the past, present and future of UW-Madison.”

The petition comes as activists in Wisconsin start eyeing not only monuments of the Confederacy, but also statues commemorating those who fought to preserve and fulfill the founding principles of the United States, such the abolitionists. According to the Madison Police Department, protesters removed the Hans Christian Heg statue from Capitol grounds during Tuesday nights’ protests.

Hans Christian Heg was a Norwegian immigrant and abolitionist. During the Civil War, Heg formed and led the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, a unit mostly consisted of Scandinavian immigrants, and died in a battle. Protesters torn down the Heg statue, which had been standing in front of the Capitol since 1925, ripped one of its leg off, and threw it into Madison’s Lake Monona.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a Wednesday press release that the Heg statue has since been recovered.

A protester told the Wisconsin State Journal that the Heg statue was removed because it created a “false representation of what this city is” and the state government is “not taking that same stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.”