UW–Madison’s Stern speaks with FOX 8 New Orleans about John McDonogh’s mixed legacy

UW­–Madison’s Walter Stern was quoted in a recent report from FOX 8 in New Orleans about a group of people who pulled a bust of John McDonogh out of the Mississippi River. The statue had previously been torn down and dumped into the river by another group.

Walter Stern

Stern, an assistant professor of history and educational policy studies and a New Orleans native, said that McDonogh leaves behind a mixed legacy.

“John McDonogh was a slave owner who acquired his wealth largely through the slave owner, plantation owner,” Stern told Fox 8. “Upon his death, he left a significant amount of money for the education of white and black children in New Orleans and his native Baltimore.”

Stern added: “One of the things McDonogh said in his will is that he gave this money and he asked that every year children come and leave flowers on his grave. One way that was honored was annually there was a ‘McDonogh Day’ in the spring.”

Stern explained to FOX 8 that children honored McDonogh in different ways depending on their race. The report explained, “During Jim Crow, Stern says white children went first while black children followed. He says the way protesters brought down the bust will have its own impact.”

“These symbols really matter, and you know taking down the statue isn’t going to end systematic racism, but it sends the message just how dramatic we need to rethink how we structure society,” Stern said.

Read the full report, and check out a video interview with Stern, via this Fox 8 web page.