CAMPUS NEWSNEWS

Lincoln statue relocated to Memorial Library

The President Lincoln statue at Minnesota State University, Mankato, has been a recognizable landmark on campus for almost 100 years. Now, the statue has a new home in an exhibit about Lincoln’s history with the city of Mankato and the Dakota people. 

The exhibit is located on the second floor of the Memorial Library next to the collection on American history and Minnesota history. In addition to an old poster that details the physical statue’s legacy on campus, it is now accompanied by information about Lincoln himself, the American Civil War and the U.S.-Dakota War. The posters offer perspectives from various sources, both modern and historical, with varying opinions on Lincoln’s actions during his life. 

The Lincoln statue was one of the landmarks reviewed by the Buildings and Landmarks Committee which was created by former President Richard Davenport in 2020 to evaluate various building names and landmarks associated with MSU. Dean of Library and Learning Christopher Corley is part of the committee and oversaw the exhibit’s creation.

“The committee came together to determine whether anything in a person’s background or life story would come into conflict with the stated university values, especially our diversity, equity and inclusion values. We walk past buildings with names on them all the time, and we have no idea who this person was,” Corley said. 

The Lincoln statue had garnered concerns prior to the official review in 2020, in regard to its highly visible location in the CSU. The U.S.-Dakota War resulted in the expulsion of the Dakota people from their land here in Minnesota, and ultimately the largest execution in the United States. 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato Dec. 26, 1862, by the order of Lincoln. 

“The concerns expressed by students, as I understood them, were about the highly visible location without any opportunity for context, and a location that wasn’t conducive to dialogue or discussion. It was a statue without any vision. 

Prior to a campus-wide discussion, a group of students gathered to voice concerns about the statue’s presence. Alumn Marilyn Allen was involved with facilitating that conversation until her graduation in the spring of 2021. 

“I was really surprised that they moved the statue. When I found out they had gotten rid of it, I was excited because it does discourage a lot of native students from coming to Mankato. There’s so much history and enrichment that can be done here, and so much opportunity for those students,” Allen said. 

The current exhibit in the library is a temporary design, and MSU faculty has plans to improve the space in the future. 

“We want this to be created by students and faculty. Of the utmost significance for us is that this is a learning experience,” said Corley. 

Archivist Librarian Daardi Mixon is also a member of the committee and helped assemble information about campus building namesakes and landmarks. 

“We are creating a buildings and landmarks website which will have all of the reports compiled over the last two years. The information is available to anyone who wants to see it,” Mixon said. 

Mixon also hopes that, with time, the new exhibit will foster new discussions about Mankato’s history. 

“For some people, this information is very new. They aren’t prepared to understand that there is a conflict because they don’t have that foundation. This is an effort to start helping people learn,” Mixon added. 

The learning opportunities from the exhibit, however, can come at the cost of other students’ comfort. 

“Because of the U.S.-Dakota War, my family is really assimilated. I wanted to go find that culture. When I got to school in Mankato, the statue was one of the first things I saw, going through a tour in the CSU, and saw this person who hanged 38 people. I ignored it because I had a greater purpose to be there,” said Allen. 

Despite her misgivings about the statue, Allen hopes the exhibit is a step in the right direction. 

“A lot of people talk about reconciliation, and people want healing, but I don’t know that you can come back from something like that. It’s going to take a long time, but I think this will spark that interest and conversation. As long as we can keep addressing that, I think it can happen.”

Header Photo: The statue of President Abraham Lincoln that used to reside in the Cenntenial Student Union now is located on the second floor of the Memorial Library. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at alexandra.tostrud@mnsu.edu

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