Douglas statue comes down, but Lincoln had racist views, too

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Teresa Haley, who heads the Springfield branch of the nation’s oldest civil rights group, the NAACP, said she thinks the Douglas statue should be removed to show intolerance for racism and white supremacy. Although Lincoln also had racist views, he was a president and the one who freed the slaves, she said.

“There’s something about erasing things from history that we still need to be aware of,” Haley said. “But there’s also something about glorifying that negative part of history as well. And this is the part that hurts all people.”

Lincoln isn’t blameless on race off the debate stage.

Allen Guelzo, a Princeton University scholar and three-time Lincoln Prize winner, noted that in 1847, Lincoln unsuccessfully represented slave owner Robert Matson in court to retrieve fugitive slaves in a free state from among those Matson rotated between his land in Kentucky and eastern Illinois to skirt Illinois’ anti-slavery law.

Guelzo, who co-created a five-step decision-making analysis for the removal of newly scrutinized memorials, believes that if Illinois uproots Douglas, Lincoln should follow, disqualified by the Matson case and his stance during the Charleston debate.

If an offensive racial opinion “is the only yardstick that we use to measure people today, they will have to pull down monuments to everybody from before 1950,” Guelzo said.

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September 20, 2020 at 11:31AM

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