University of Wisconsin-Madison Removes a Boulder That Was Offensive to Many on Campus

The University of Wisconsin-Medison has removed a 70-ton boulder from the heart of campus. In 1925, the rock was removed from a campus construction site and placed near Washburn Observatory. The boulder became know as “niggerhead rock.”

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan had a major presence in Wisconsin and at the University of Wisconsin. (See: Messer-Kruse, Thomas, “Memories of the Ku Klux Klan Honorary Society at the University of Wisconsin,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Number 23, Spring 1999, p. 83.)

The rock was officially named Chamberlain Rock to honor Thomas Crowder Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president. But its history was well known to many on campus. A year ago, the Black Student Union on campus called for the rock to be removed. “You clearly see what the rock was called and you can’t deny the history. Additionally, you can’t deny the way it makes some people feel,” said Black Student Union president Nalah McWhorter in an interview conducted at that time.

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, approved the removal of the rock earlier this year. But the removal required the approval of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The University of Wisconsin has had a series of racial incidents in the past.

In 2016, two students attending a football game wore Halloween costumes, one depicting President Obama and the other was dressed as Donald Trump. The Trump character was holding a noose that was hung around the neck of the student portraying the President Obama. Security asked the students to refrain from displaying the noose but the university later defended the students’ right of free speech. Later, the university said the displaying of a noose was inappropriate.

In 2012, two Black women students at the University of Wisconsin reported that they were subjected to racial slurs as they walked past a fraternity house near campus. The women were taunted by men who were partying on the porch of the fraternity house. A glass bottle was thrown at the women.

Earlier, the university photo-shopped an image of a Black student into a crowd of White students at a football game. The altered photo was used on the cover of an admissions marketing brochure.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that Blacks make up just 2 percent of the 32,000-member undergraduate student body at the University of Wisconsin. African Americans are nearly 7 percent of the state’s population.


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