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Sue Atwell ’68

You can include this piece of history in your memoir, Sue. The memorial plaque is located where you remember it, near the entrance to the Social Sciences Building (renamed in 2006 for the late sociology scholar and former UW Chancellor William H. Sewell) on Observatory Drive near the Carillon Tower. Mounted on a natural stone monument, the plaque’s inscription reads: “Black Hawk, Sauk Chief. Retreated through these grounds July 21, 1832, pursued by militia and U.S. regulars. Placed by the Class of 1888 U.W., June 17, 1913.”

Black Hawk and his Sauk band were peacefully retreating across the Wisconsin River when U.S. militia attacked them. The Battle of Wisconsin Heights cost the lives of one soldier and many Native Americans, and ensuing battles nearly wiped out Black Hawk’s people. Then a young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, was among the 1,600 men who volunteered to fight which was his only experience in battle. Black Hawk himself survived and became legendary for his courage, integrity and dignity.

Your experience near the plaque’s site, 135 years later, was also a pivotal time in Wisconsin’s history. On Oct. 18, 1967, a peaceful sit-in against Dow Chemical, the makers of napalm used by U.S. forces against guerillas and civilians in Vietnam, prompted a police assault on student protesters. “Dow Day” led to a rapid change in the political atmosphere on campus, moving Madison into the national forefront of anti-war and anti-draft student activism.

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