NYC Commission Votes to Remove Thomas Jefferson's Statue From City Hall Over Complaints
01:13 GMT 19.10.2021 (Updated: 21:07 GMT 19.10.2022)
The statue of one of the nation's Founding Fathers stood in the Big Apple's City Hall for 187 years, gifted in 1834 by naval officer and Jefferson admirer Uriah Phillips Levy. Activists and lawmakers have struggled over the painted plaster statue for decades.
The statue of Thomas Jefferson will be removed from the City Council chamber before the end of the year, while the body is still considering where to put the monument of the third US president.
After four members testified that his status as a slaveholder was an affront to the council's many Black members, as per the New York Post
, the Public Design Commission unanimously agreed to remove Jefferson from the legislative chamber at City Hall.
“We acknowledge that the piece needs to be removed from the City Council chamber,” commission president Signe Nielsen is quoted as saying after the two-hour debates
. "We as a commission will act before the end of 2021 in finding an appropriate location where it remains in the public realm."
The nine-member commission, all of whom are mayoral appointees, had planned to vote on whether to loan the New-York Historical Society the 1833 painted plaster monument of the Declaration of Independence author. The original can still be found at the US Capitol's rotunda.
However, Nielsen reportedly opposed the original idea of lending the statue
to the public, because it is a private institution with a $22 entrance fee.
According to the newspaper, the Governor's Room at City Hall, just across from the Council chambers, and the New York Public Library, which holds a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson's handwriting, were mentioned by members of the public and the commission as possible locations for the statue.
“When we remove this statue, we’re making a step in the right direction for erasing honoring of those who murdered and raped us,” Democrat Assemblyman Charles Barron, who is also a Black activist, said in an interview after
The Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus initiated a hearing for the removal of the Jefferson statue, claiming that the monument serves as "a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country," as per The New York Times
Democrat Assemblyman Charles Barron, who initially took up the fight to have Jefferson removed from the Council rooms 20 years ago, reportedly said the revolutionary hero would go to a landfill if it was up to him.
“I don’t think it should go anywhere. I don’t think it should exist. I think it should be put in storage somewhere, destroyed or whatever,” Barron said at the hearing. "He was a slave-owning pedophile."
Barron was referring to Jefferson's sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, which allegedly began
when she was 14 and he was 44, and which some modern scholars consider essentially a rape that resulted in Hemings having at least one child by her master.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had tasked
his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, with deciding the destiny of the sculpture as head of the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation back in summer 2020 following racial protests in light of the death of Black man George Floyd in police custody in late May.
"The de Blasio administration will continue the progressive war on history as he, himself, fades away into a portrait on a City Hall wall," Councilman Joe Borelli, R-Staten Island, told The NY Post earlier. "I hope he is at least gone a couple hundred years before someone cancels him."
Other politicians, as well as historians and social media users have expressed dissatisfaction with the statue's removal, suggesting that progressive politicians may have issues with perceiving history, which is controversial in almost any country.
"This is just ridiculous. #NYC will be going too far if they vote to remove a #ThomasJefferson statue from City Hall. Will they reject the Declaration of Independence as well? How about the bill of rights, which were inspired by TJ & written by Madison?" a netizen wrote.