Letter to the Editor
For the Sake of Diversity and Inclusion, It’s Time to Bury Millard Fillmore in UB’s Past
As the semester comes to a close and winter recess begins, UB will, again, move forward with an annual ritual that diminishes its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. On January 7, UB will again organize the celebration of Millard Fillmore’s birthday at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Millard Fillmore was the first chancellor of UB, holding that office from 1846 to 1874. During that time, he was briefly vice president of the United States, and then assumed the presidency in 1850 after Zachary Taylor’s untimely death. He is widely considered to have been a failure as president. One of his few actions as president was signing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 into law and enforcing it. Fillmore was one of the only sitting residents not to be nominated for reelection by his party (the Whig Party, which ultimately withered away in the wake of the Fillmore years).
In 1856, Fillmore returned to politics and was nominated as the presidential candidate of the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party. He came in last place in a three-candidate race, winning only one state. After his defeat, Fillmore retreated to Buffalo and resumed his duties at UB. During this time, he engaged national policy discourse. Notably, he spoke out against the Lincoln administration’s emancipation proclamation during the civil war and later backed Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan which led to the disenfranchisement of freed slaves in the south.
For the past 59 years, UB has organized and dedicated university resources to the annual celebration of Millard Fillmore. Some traditions need to be reexamined, especially those that conflict with our still unrealized aspirations for the future. Celebrating Fillmore is clearly in that category.
Robert M. Silverman, Professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning