Chicago, Illinois — A Chicago black rights activist has called for the removal of two presidential monuments on the city’s south side on the grounds that the memorials are offensive to blacks.
A bronze statue of George Washington on horseback stands at the northwest entrance to Washington Park, where the park was dedicated on December 6, 1879.
Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center, said he wants the statue taken out, and wants George Washington’s name removed from the park. Dukes also says President Andrew Jackson’s name should be removed from nearby Jackson Park, because, like Washington, he too was a slave owner.
“When I see that, I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery, and was three-fifths of humans,” Dukes told CBS 2 Chicago (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/video/category/news-local-news/3715388-pastor-wants-washington-jackson-parks-renamed-over-presidents-ties-to-slavery/). “Some people out here ask me, say ‘Well, you know, he taught his slaves to read.’ That’s almost sad; the equivalent of someone who kidnaps you, that you gave them something to eat.”
Dukes says it’s “unfair” that a monument would be put up to honor the nation’s first president while there have been no monuments erected to commemorate the lives of black activists such as Malcom X.
“There’s no way plausible that we would even think that they would erect a Malcolm X statue in Mount Greenwood, Lincoln Park, or any of that. Not that say Malcolm X was a bad guy; they just would not go for it,” he said. “Native Americans would not even think about putting up a Custer statue, because of the atrocities that he plagued upon Native Americans. And for them to say to us ‘just accept it’ is actually insulting.”
Dukes said he is not “trying to erase history” but that whites should have no say in monuments erected in neighborhoods that are homes to blacks.
“I think we should be able to identify and decide who we declare heroes in or communities, because we have to tell the stories to our children of who these persons are,” he said.
In an open letter published to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bishopjames.dukes?fref=nf), Dukes called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District to make it happen.
“I am feeling ambivalent that I would have to walk my child, attend a parade or enjoy a game of softball in a park that commemorates the memory of a slave owner,” he wrote. “Therefore, I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago. They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade.”
Calls for comment to Mayor Emanuel have not yet been returned.