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US Walt Whitman Statue to Be Relocated on College Campus, Citing Controversial Racist Past

01:19  13 july  2021
01:19  13 july  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

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This Friday, May 31, marks the 200th birthday of poet Walt Whitman . Events all over the city are commemorating the legendary writer, who lived and worked in Brooklyn for many years, and is , of course, beloved by many here and the world over. "I think there's a new level of honesty," she said, citing a black graduate student who flunked a class because he refused to perform a Whitman poem due to the writer's racist comments, including referring to black people as baboons . "We can look at his work with that in our minds instead of what we were taught in the past as readers.

A statue of Walt Whitman , one of America’s most famous and influential poets, has come under fire at Rutgers University-Camden, where a petition demands his statue be removed. The statue , featured prominently in the center of campus , pays homage to the author of the seminal work “Leaves of But the artist, sometimes called the “Bard of Democracy” whose poetry praised the American experiment, also held racist notions about African Americans, and for that some want the statue removed. The petition states that “Rutgers-Camden has been making efforts recently to remove symbols around our

A statue of the famous 19th-century poet Walt Whitman is set to be removed from the center of the Rutgers University-Camden campus in New Jersey after petitions from activists and a recommendation from a committee of scholars was recently approved.

a close up of an animal: A sculpture by Banks of American poet, essayist and journalist Walt Whitman. © Getty Images A sculpture by Banks of American poet, essayist and journalist Walt Whitman.

The Whitman statue, located in Camden's Campus Center courtyard, will be moved to another campus site, according to the school's vice-chancellor for public affairs and chief of staff, Mike Sepanic. The statue pays homage to the author who lived in Camden upon his death in 1892 at age 72.

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(AP) — A local team of art researchers has proposed moving the Marcus Whitman statue from its current spot at the Whitman College campus to Fort Walla Walla Museum where the group says its true context can be shared. “The statue tells us a lot and it has a rich and fascinating history, but again, that history Instead, the representation appears more like a symbol of “frontier mythology,” commonly seen in television shows and artwork when the statue was created in the ’50s. Marcus Whitman was not a trapper as the statue presents him to be , experts say. The research team, with support from the

The past ! the infinite greatness of the past ! 30. Lo, soul! seest thou not God’s purpose from the first? The earth to be spann’d, connected by net-work, The people to become brothers and sisters, The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near, 35.

Sepanic told Newsweek that members of the Rutgers University–Camden community asked the university in spring 2020 to re-evaluate, through contemporary and social-justice lenses, the statues, monuments and other forms of public art on our campus.

"A committee of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, including a number of historians and artists, examined this broad topic during the past year," said Sepanic. "Their recommendations include the relocation of a statue of Walt Whitman from in front of our Campus Center to another site on campus—in a garden space near a century-old tree—where the statue can be displayed with accompanying contextual information within the coming months."

Last year, a petition on change.org entitled "Remove Racist Walt Whitman from Rutgers-Camden Campus" started circulating.

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When Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass in 1855, it drew some savage reviews. The splenetic Rufus W. Griswold (famous for slandering the dead Edgar Allan Poe) could barely contain his fury. The claim that Whitman “didn’t deny having sex with his tenant’s teenaged son” seems like proof of Whitman ’s guilt in the eyes of Ms. Ruden. And she makes much of his documented participation in the racist attitudes of his day, but she makes no mention of the powerful anti- racist passages in his poems.

Walt Whitman , American poet, journalist and essayist whose verse collection Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, is a landmark in the history of American literature. His aim was to transcend traditional epics and to eschew normal aesthetic form. Walt Whitman ’s poetry was innovative for its verse style and for the way it challenged traditional narratives. He championed the individual soul over social conventions, presenting himself as a rough and free spirit. His poetry has continued to resonate with new generations of Americans, and he is considered a symbol of American democracy.

The appeal argues the statue "glorifies a man who we should not hold such a place of honor on our campus. Our school encourages inclusion, diversity, and equity while Whitman stood for none of those things. He instead stood for white supremacy and racism against Black and Indigenous Americans."

It went on to quote what the activists called one of Whitman's "white supremacist beliefs": "The n*****, like the I****, will be eliminated: it is the law of races, history, what-not: always so far inexorable—always to be. Someone proves that a superior grade of rats comes and then all the minor rats are cleared out."

As of Monday, the petition had 3,853 signatures of its 5,000 goal. Protests also centered on the school landmark.

Whitman is considered one of America's most famous and influential poets known for his seminal "Leaves of Grass," "Song of Myself" and "O Captain! My Captain!" The author and essayist was considered a humanist; he incorporated both views of transcendentalism and realism in his works and was often called the father of free verse. In general, his poetry praised the American experiment.

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Today many consider Whitman to be the greatest American poet. Walter Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, N.Y., on May 31, 1819, the second of six children. His father was a carpenter. Early in the American Civil War Whitman learned that his brother George was wounded and in a hospital in Washington, D.C. He found George nearly recovered but saw other soldiers badly in need of care. He stayed in Washington as a government clerk and also served as a hospital volunteer.

To Whitman , who declared himself “the poet of the woman the same as the man,” the gravest weakness of democracy was the artificial, culturally manufactured inequality of the genders, which he recognized not only as a corruption of democracy but as a corruption of nature. A century before Adrienne Rich argued for literature as a force of women’s empowerment and a form of resistance to male capitalist society, Whitman called for the creation of a new American literature that would be as much an original art form as a tool of social change.

In an email to both students and university employees, interim Chancellor Margaret Marsh said the school plans to establish a day to honor and examine the history of Rutgers-Camden and racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion narratives.

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50 years ago, Duke University hosted the experimental Pan-Africa – U.S.A. International Track Meet, looking to change a legacy of structural racism. One year before Ethiopian Miruts Yifter won an Olympic bronze medal in Munich, Germany, and five years before he won two golds in Moscow, he m iscounted laps in a race held in Durham, North Carolina. As a result, American distance running icon, Steve Prefontaine, took the title at the Pan-Africa – U.S.A. International Track Meet in front of 52,000 fans. Yifter irritated his competitors, shifting between positions throughout the race, before mistakenly using his final gear in the penultimate lap.

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