A statue of Thomas Jefferson — America’s third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence — was removed Monday from City Hall in New York City, where it stood for nearly two centuries, because Jefferson was a slave owner, the New York Post reported.
What are the details?
About a dozen art handlers with Marshall Fine Arts spent several hours carefully removing the 884-pound statue from its pedestal in City Council chambers and packing it in a wooden crate before moving it out the back door, the Post said.
The 1833 statue will be on long-term loan to the New York Historical Society, the paper said, adding that the plan is to place the statue in the NYHS lobby and reading room.
More from the Post:
Keri Butler, executive director of the Public Design Commission that voted to banish the statue, at first tried to block the press from witnessing its removal. Butler relented after members of the mayor’s office and City Council intervened.
The commission also attempted to vote on the statue’s removal without a public hearing on the controversial move until The Post revealed the plan.
“Removing a monument without a public conversation about why it’s happening is useless. New Yorkers all need to talk about who we want to honor and why,” Erin Thompson, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, told the paper.
Thompson — author of the forthcoming book “Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments” — added to the Post that the removal of the Jefferson statue may lead to broader historical understandings.
“Moving this statue doesn’t mean New Yorkers will forget who Thomas Jefferson was,” Thompson also told the paper, “but some of them might learn from the controversy that the man who wrote ‘all men are created equal’ owned over 600 of his fellow humans.”
The city’s Public Design Commission last month voted unanimously to relocate the Jefferson statue.
Queens Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said at the public hearing on the statue that it made her “deeply uncomfortable knowing that we sit in the presence of a statue that pays homage to a slaveholder who fundamentally believed that people who look like me were inherently inferior, lacked intelligence, and were not worthy of freedom or rights.”
While removing the statue was a discussion point for about 20 years, the effort picked up steam last year following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked often violent protests around the country — and a number of toppled and vandalized statues and monuments.
“I don’t think it should exist,” Assemblyman Charles Barron said at the hearing in regard to the Jefferson statue. “I think it should be put in storage or destroyed or whatever.”