A statue of Thomas Jefferson that had stood in New York’s City Hall since before the Civil War was removed on Tuesday morning.
After 187 years in the council chambers, the statue depicting Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence was canceled by city leaders because he owned slaves prior to his death in 1809.
The country’s third president was erased from public view with little fanfare in the Big Apple.
There was no spray paint or smashing. No hammers were present, nor were any masked arsonists.
The statue, which weighs 884 pounds, was quietly taken down and shipped away from public view more than a year after bands of rioters first began going after great American statues and monuments.
The New York Post reported the statue was packed away in a wooden crate and shipped off to a new home at the New York Historical Society. There, the Founding Father will rest in the lobby — for now.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 23, 2021
The mayor heaped praise on Jefferson’s “immense contributions to this country” but agreed with council members who wanted it gone, the New York Daily News reported.
“There was a full debate, and the Council made this request. It’s their chamber. I want to respect that,” de Blasio said. “Thomas Jefferson is a profoundly important figure in American history, who was also profoundly contradictory.”
“Anyone who owned slaves — there’s a fair critique, to say the least. But he also made immense contributions to this country and to some of the best values that permeate the world today,” the outgoing mayor said.
Erin Thompson of John Jay College attempted to add some context to the statue’s removal in comments to the Post.
“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,” Thompson said.
“Moving this statue doesn’t mean New Yorkers will forget who Thomas Jefferson was — 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,” she said.
Jefferson’s cancellation comes four years after then-President Donald Trump wondered aloud about it when speaking on removals of other American figures’ statues.
“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” Trump said during a news conference in August 2017.
“You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? … [Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue?”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.