For years, students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have been haunted by the Chamberlin Rock as a symbol of their institution’s racist history. Since 1925, when a newspaper gave it a horribly racialized name with a racial epithet, the rock has been located on Observatory Hill at the top of the hill. The term referred to any large and

The campus of the University of Wisconsin is located on Ho-Chunk ancestral land. In cooperation with the student organization Wunk Sheek of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, the school was persuaded to remove the rock from campus.

“It took courage and commitment for the Wisconsin Black Student Union to bring this issue forward and to influence change alongside UW’s Wunk Sheek student leaders,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor stated. “In the midst of demands for justice following George Floyd’s murder last summer, the students wanted updates on campus, and they worked hard to see this through. While the decision required compromise, I’m proud of the student leaders and the collaboration it took to get here.”

On Friday, the boulder was hauled away from campus. University of Wisconsin-Madison senior Nalah McWhorter, who is in charge of the Wisconsin Black Student Union during the 2020 to 2021 academic year and is a member of staff at The Associated Students of Madison, was among the spectators watching it being taken away by crane.

“It was very meaningful for me to be there and to see the process all the way through to the end,” McWhorter said. “It was about a year ago that we released our demands and met with the chancellor and explained to her why those demands meant so much to us. It was a powerful moment today to see this demand come full circle.”

Removing the rock from school does not erase America’s legacy of racism, but McWhorter views it as a modest illustration of how real people can make genuine progress. She wants other student activists to follow her example and petition for change on campus and elsewhere because she believes that success story will inspire others to do the same.

“I see this as offering the next generation of students something to build off of,” she said. “We got this project going, and now the next round of students can continue to work on the other demands and come up with other ideas. We hope this movement and this momentum carries on.”

Wisconsin Black Student Union member, junior Tina-Taliana Ross added: “I think it’s a start. It feels like we can build on this momentum and continue to make positive changes for our campus community. Together with the support of everyone here today, I feel confident that we can achieve anything.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chamberlin Rock has been taken off campus and is planned to be put on exhibit at a museum. Thomas Chamberlin, a renowned geologist who was president of the university from 1887 to 1892, named the rock after himself. It is thought to be more than two billion years old and measures roughly 30 feet.