Public art officials in New York City voted unanimously earlier this week to remove a 188-year-old statue of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, from the city council chamber at City Hall.
The decision is based on the fact that Jefferson owned slaves. That fact is not mentioned in his biography posted on the White House website, which reads in part:
Freckled and sandy-haired, rather tall and awkward, Jefferson was eloquent as a correspondent, but he was no public speaker. In the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriot cause. As the “silent member” of the Congress, Jefferson, at 33, drafted the Declaration of Independence. In years following he labored to make its words a reality in Virginia. Most notably, he wrote a bill establishing religious freedom, enacted in 1786.
Jefferson succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France in 1785. His sympathy for the French Revolution led him into conflict with Alexander Hamilton when Jefferson was Secretary of State in President Washington’s Cabinet.
ABC reported on the move, based exclusively on slavery and race:
The City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian caucus released a statement on the statue’s removal, citing a letter to Democrat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.Advertisement
“This administration owes it to the more than five million New Yorkers of color our members – past, present and future – represent, to resolve that the individuals memorialized within the confines of our People’s House be reflective not only of the best traditions of our city’s history and its diversity but unquestionable character,” it read, in part.
Not everyone supports removing the statue, and it has become an issue in the New York City mayoral race. [Mayoral] candidates Curtis Sliwa and Eric Adams both shared their thoughts on the matter.
“Do we suddenly wipe out the images, the markings, the names of all those great patriots because they were slaveholders and slave holding was quite common at that time?” Sliwa said.
“There are a number of appropriate figures to honor in our seat of government who are more directly meaningful to our people and are more reflective of our city’s history than Thomas Jefferson,” Adams said.