CHICAGO – Protesters have defaced and torn down statues of historic figures during recent demonstrations against racial injustice in cities across the nation. Most of those pieces have explicit ties to colonialism, slavery and the Confederacy, including imagery of Christopher Columbus and former U.S. presidents who owned slaves.
In Madison, Wisconsin, protesters tore down two sculptures with no obvious links to that history: one depicting an abolitionist Union military official and another of a female form representing the state motto “Forward."
Protesters said in media interviews that the state and city aren't living up to the progressive values represented by the “Forward” and Col. Hans Christian Heg sculptures that were torn down Tuesday night.
Jean Pond Miner's “Forward” bronze statue represented Wisconsin at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A pamphlet for the event said the female figure was standing at the prow of a boat surging through the water.
It was later installed outside an entrance to the Capitol building and remained there until 1995 when the weather-damaged original was removed and replaced by a bronze replica.
The statue has long been a silent participant in Madison protests for a variety of causes, serving as a place to hang signs and a climbing post for people leading chants.
Nada Elmikashfi, a Black resident who’s running for one of the state Senate districts representing Madison, said the statue doesn’t have the same meaning to everyone, particularly people of color.