On Monday, New York’s Public Design Commission will hold a vote regarding whether or not a statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands in the New York City Council building will be removed and loaned to the New York Historical Society. The vote was requested in the wake of the City Council’s Black, Asian and Latino Caucus asked for the statue to be removed, citing its intimidating, 7-foot-tall presence. Other attempts have been made over the years to get the Jefferson statue removed, but they have thus far been unsuccessful.
“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,” the caucus said in a statement.
Jefferson, of course, was both one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the enslaver of over 600 people. “The thing that is so troubling to people is that even someone who understood so deeply the values of freedom and human dignity, and the value of each life, was still a slave owner,” Mayor de Blasio said last week. Earlier this year, the mayor announced his intent to finally remove a statue of Theodore Roosevelt that stands in front of the Museum of Natural History; the sculpture has been criticized for years for perpetuating racist and colonialist sentiments. Recently, the Roosevelt statue was splashed with red paint by protesters.
“How the hell can people see as a hero someone who had hundreds of enslaved Africans, someone who was a racist and who said we were inferior and someone who was a slaveholding pedophile?” Assemblyman Charles Barron, who also launched an attempt to get the Jefferson statue removed years ago, told the New York Times. “For him to be canonized in a statue is incredible — incredibly racist.”