Lizzo made waves last month when she played President James Madison’s flute. The founding father was also a slave owner and the architect of the 3/5 Compromise – the law which counted every three out of five enslaved people for taxation and representation. Simply put, it was Madison’s idea that each enslaved person counted as 3/5 of a person.
Due to Madison’s complicated legacy, there were mixed reactions across the internet to Lizzo playing his crystal flute.
Many Republicans were livid. Some Democrats celebrated the moment as historic and full of symbolism. Others, however, said it was nothing to be proud of. Some Black Americans were in the latter group.
The moment occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 27, during Lizzo’s Washington D.C. stop of “The Special Tour.”
“B**ch, I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s,” Lizzo exclaimed after playing a few notes on the flute. “We just made history tonight!”
Some people agreed with her. Law professor Tiffany C. Li was among them.
“Lizzo, a Black female superstar, collaborating with Carla Hayden, the first African American and first woman Librarian of Congress, to use a flute from James Madison, the Founding Father who originated the 3/5 Compromise and also the Library of Congress itself? The symbolism!!!” Li tweeted along with the clip of the moment.
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“Our girl @lizzo making history playing JAMES MADISON’s crystal flute for the 1st time ever on stage @CapitalOne arena tonight,” tweeted Tucker Clare Nelson, a legislative aide at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “The symbolism of this is honestly too much. Thanks @librarycongress for making this magical moment happen for us in D.C.”
“I’m still not over Lizzo twerking while gorgeously playing the exceedingly-extravagant flute of a dead old racist dude who owned enslaved people,” Danielle Weisberg tweeted about the moment, adding, “perfect symbolism and as always she is a win for the general flute community.”
“As a flautist,I love what Lizzo has done to elevate the flute. She honors all of us by playing that crystal flute!” @katanders tweeted.
Others, however, were not impressed.
“i keep seeing all this talk about the powerful symbolism of lizzo using james madison’s flute and i just want to know how a black woman using a slaveowner’s instrument is anything other than grotesque? like explain it to me real slow!” @theineffability chimed in.
“Bucking your eyes and twerking while you are playing the 200 year old flute of a white supremacist slave owner, to an audience of cheering white people? Is this what we are doing, family?” FBA founder Tariq Nasheed said.
“Are we really on day 3 of Flutegate. James Madison enslaved people. Not even a mildly repentant slaver. He never freed a single person. So it’s f*ck him for me,” @AngryBlackLady wrote. “Lizzo should’ve thrown that glass flute into the audience. Or sold it for weed.”
“This is ridiculous Madison owned over 100 slaves on a Virginia plantation. You would never see this nonsense from any group oppressed and enslaved by a person” Antonio Moore tweeted. “On her Twitter @lizzo calls it a ‘Presidential’ flute. No Lizzo it’s Madison’s. A man who held your ancestors as slaves.”
Bishop Talbert Swan called out the racists who were upset that Lizzo played Madison’s flute.
“James Madison was a racist, slave owning, rapist. Wypipo are mad that @lizzo, a Black woman, played his crystal flute. They want us to ‘get over’ the fact that Madison had Black children by enslaved Black women that he raped. To hades with them, Madison, and his flute,’ Swan tweeted.
Another user had some strong words for anyone enthralled with James Madison’s flute.
“We have to stop being enamored with things once owned by the Founding Fathers of Anti-Blackness in the United States,” @LeftSentThis tweeted. “F*ck their flutes. F*ck their documents. F*ck their legacies. These people owned enslaved Africans. They put into law that our ancestors were “3/5 human.” F*ck um.”
PHOTO: Lizzo plays a flute at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, June 23, 2019 (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) / Undated photo of a portrait of President James Madison. (AP)