Lizzo’s crystal flute moment reminds fans that James Madison owned slaves

Lizzo made history Tuesday when she played a centuries-old crystal flute that once belonged to former President James Madison at her concert in Washington, DC. Now some on social media are spreading dark details from the founding father’s controversial legacy.

The video of Lizzo playing the flute went viral on social media after the singer tweeted a clip.

“NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD THIS FAMOUS CRYSTAL FLUTE BEFORE. NOW YOU HAVE IT. I AM THE FIRST AND ONLY PERSON TO EVER PLAY THIS 200 YEAR OLD PRESIDENTIAL CRYSTAL FLUTE – THANK YOU @Library Congress“, Lizzo wrote add a heart emoji to a tweet. NPR noted that the instrument was played by at least one other person.

Although Lizzo received enthusiastic responses from fans, the Library of Congress — who loaned her the flute —tweeted that it had heard from critics, who claimed to fear for the instrument’s well-being. The library tried to reassure people that the curators had checked before the concert that the flute “could be played without damage”.

The Library of Congress also informed its Twitter followers after Lizzo’s performance that the flute had been returned.

“We just did a DNA test. It turns out: it’s 100% like that [crystal] flute @lizo played at their DC stop on the #special tour This evening. It’s now back in the library safe and sound,” his Twitter account said wrote.

Lizzo, James Madison, Crystal Flute
Lizzo performs in Sunrise, Florida on September 23rd. The singer performed James Madison’s famous Crystal Flute on stage earlier this week.
Jason Korner/Getty Images

Other celebrities have also recently made public appearances with historical artifacts.

Kim Kardashian, for example, attended this year’s Met Gala in a dress once worn by Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. But unlike Lizzo – whose playing appears to have done no harm to the instrument – allegations soon surfaced that the Monroe dress had torn fabrics and missing crystals.

Some on social media began pushing back those who expressed concern about Madison’s flute, saying the outrage was rooted in racism. Others reminded Twitter users not to romanticize the founding fathers.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of About repentance and redemptionnoted the importance of the Lizzo-Crystal Flute pairing.

“This flute once belonged to the enslavement president James Madison,” Ruttenberg wrote in a tweet. “And now it’s being played by this beautiful, talented black woman for all the world to see.”

Tiffany C. Li, technology advocate and MSNBC columnist, also stressed the seriousness of the situation.

“Lizzo, a black female superstar who works with Carla Hayden, the first African American woman and first librarian to Congress, to use a flute owned by James Madison, the Founding Father who invented the 3/5 Compromise and also the Library of Congress itself launched? The symbolism!!!” Li tweeted.

Other social media users also brought up the fact that Madison was a slave owner.

“James Madison was the Post President Susan Collins of his day. He owned 136 slaves while in office,” Twitter user @HassanSayyed wrote. “After his last term in office, he campaigned against slavery and its impact on society while still owning 36 and not even freeing them in his will after his death. PLAY THE THANG LIZZO!”

Another Twitter user joked that Madison is probably rolling in his grave.

“I just think how horrified James Madison’s slave-owning ass would be and it tickles me so much.” tweeted User @historyofjess.

news week reached out to a Lizzo representative for comment. Lizzo’s crystal flute moment reminds fans that James Madison owned slaves

Rick Schindler

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