Jefferson Statue to be Removed from NY City Council ChambersBreaking News
tags: Thomas Jefferson, memorials, statues, New York, public history, religious liberty
For more than 100 years, a 7-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson has towered over members of the New York City Council in their chamber at City Hall, a testament to his role as one of the nation’s founding fathers and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.
But for the last two decades, some Black and Latino Council members, citing Jefferson’s history as a slaveholder, called for the statue to be banished — a push that gained significant momentum in the last year, as the nation has broadly reconsidered public monuments that can be viewed as symbols of systemic racism.
On Monday, city officials voted unanimously to remove the statue from Council chambers, but delayed a decision on where to put it.
“There are 700 pieces of art under our jurisdiction, we cannot make a rash decision that will set a precedent for the other 699 pieces of artwork that may also have challenges from people or other groups of people,” Signe Nielsen, president of the Public Design Commission, which oversees art at city-owned property, said at a public hearing before the vote.
The relocation of the statue, requested by the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, was expected to be a fait accompli: An agreement was already in place to relocate the statue to the New-York Historical Society. A crate had been ordered to house the statue during the move.
The society had agreed to present the statue in a historical context that captured Jefferson’s legacy as a founding father, but also as a man who enslaved more than 600 people and fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemings.
The unexpected delay angered some Black and Latino lawmakers, who had expected the statue to be moved from City Hall because, as the caucus said in a letter to the mayor, it serves as “a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country.”
There have been various attempts to remove the statue; two decades ago, a call to banish the statue gained attention, but went nowhere.