New York City officials are planning on removing a statue of America’s third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, from his current perch at City Hall after a coalition of ethnic groups have complained about his slave-owning past.
His statue has stood in that spot for 200 years, reported the New York Daily News.
The demand to remove the statue was made by the caucus to the Public Design Commission, which manages art located on city property.
In a letter last year to Mayor Bill de Blasio, members of the Caucus and the City Council wrote, “There are disturbing images of divisiveness and racism in our City that need to be revisited immediately. That starts with City Hall.
“The statue of Thomas Jefferson in the City Council Chambers is inappropriate and serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country. It must be removed,” the letter continues.
“Jefferson is America’s most noted slave holder, a man who owned more than 600 Black women and men and a scholar who maintained that Blacks were inferior to whites,” the letter adds.
“The City Council Chambers is a place where we vote on bills to improve the lives of all New Yorkers and build a more fair and just city. It is not a suitable place for a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Keeping it in City Hall sends a terrible message to the people who are counting on us to work towards a more equitable New York City,” it continued.
While he was indeed a slaveholder, critics of removing the statue note that he was also a man of the times and that he worked to free the country from a then-tyrannical government while helping to craft a Constitution that provided future generations with a means of ending slavery once and for all.
Nevertheless, the letter notes, “”We urge you to support our efforts as we go to the design commission to expeditiously remove this statue.”
The Public Design Commission is scheduled to meet on Monday when the decision will likely be made to remove the statue.
“I start with the assumption that it will be approved, but I don’t know. That’s ultimately a decision that that commission makes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Daily News.
“The City Council spoke out of their belief of what is right for their chamber, for their side of City Hall, and that to me is just a straightforward matter. If that’s what they feel, I want to respect them as another branch of government,” he added.
He also said that neither he nor his wife, who is black and actually on the commission, asked that Jefferson’s statue be removed.
“Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, the first Secretary of State under President George Washington, the second vice president under John Adams, and the third president of the United States (1801-1809). After he retired, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia,” CNS News reported.