Statue of Thomas Jefferson to be removed from New York’s City Hall

Third president and founding father enslaved more than 600 people and fathered children with them

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Monday 18 October 2021 17:06
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A towering statue of Thomas Jefferson that has stood in New York’s City Hall since 1833 is expected to be removed and sent to a museum amid growing objections about the founding father’s ownership of slaves.

The Public Design Commission is set to approve the seven foot (2.13m) statue’s move on Monday from the City Council Chamber to the New-York Historical Society as a long-term loan.

It’s the latest memorial to be removed or destroyed as part of a national reckoning over race and inequality in the wake of the protests over the murder of George Floyd that erupted in the summer of 2020.

The removal of the statue from led by New York City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, who said in a statement the city government should “resolve that the individuals memorialised 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”.

Mr Jefferson, the nation’s third president, has become a contentious figure in recent years as advocates for racial justice have demanded the removal of statues of Confederate generals and others who carried out racist policies.

The statue of Thomas Jefferson that has stood in New York’s City Hall Council Chamber since for more than 170 years (photo from 2010).

Although Mr Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he did not support the emancipation of enslaved Africans and owned hundreds of slaves himself.

He also fathered six children with one of the women that he enslaved, Sally Hemings.

City Hall’s Jefferson statue is a painted plaster model of the statue by French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers that stands in the Capitol rotunda of the U.S. Congress.

It depicts the founding father with a pen in one hand and the Declaration of Independence in the other.

Asked about the statue last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he understood why Mr Jefferson’s history as a slaveowner “profoundly bothers people, and why they find it’s something that can’t be ignored”.

In September, a giant statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee was removed from Richmond, Virginia.

Students are also demanding their colleges take more ambitious steps to atone for past sins amid the ongoing national reckoning over race.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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