All statues are not created equal.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a group of fellow councilmembers say it’s high time to remove the Thomas Jefferson statue from the City Council Chambers at City Hall.
While the Founding Father famously penned the Declaration of Independence and was elected the country’s third president, the councilmembers noted he was also the country’s “most noted slaveholder.”
On Thurs., June 18, Johnson and four other councilmembers wrote a letter to Mayor de Blasio, asking for his support as they go to the city’s Public Design Commission to get approval to remove the statue.
Along with Johnson, the letter’s other signers included Adrienne Adams and I. Daneek Miller, co-chairpersons of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, and Deborah Rose and Inez D. Barron.
“In the last few weeks, New Yorkers have called on all of us in elected office to make bold change so that communities of color feel heard, protected and represented,” the councilmembers letter to de Blasio said. “The City Council is committed to creating true reforms to policies and policing that hurt Black New Yorkers.
“But that is not enough. There are disturbing images of divisiveness and racism in our City that need to be revisited immediately. That starts with City Hall.
“The statue of Thomas Jefferson in the City Council Chambers is inappropriate and serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country. It must be removed,” the councilmembers demanded.
“Jefferson is America’s most noted slaveholder, a man who owned more than 600 Black women and men and a scholar who maintained that Blacks were inferior to whites.
“The City Council Chambers is a place where we vote on bills to improve the lives of all New Yorkers and build a more fair and just city. It is not a suitable place for a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Keeping it in City Hall sends a terrible message to the people who are counting on us to work towards a more equitable New York City.
“We urge you,” they told the mayor, “to support our efforts as we go to the Design Commission to expeditiously remove this statue.”
The request comes on the eve of Juneteenth, when former slaves in Texas were finally notified by the U.S. military on June 19, 1865, that they were free.
The full City Council has not voted on a resolution to remove the Jefferson statue.
Subsequently, Mayor de Blasio announced that his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, will head a new Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation that will decide whether the Jefferson statue, as well as one of George Washington that is also at City Hall, should get the boot.
The councilmembers’ request to jettison Jefferson comes amid a wave of desecrations of statues of colonialists, Confederates and slaveholders in the U.S. and in Europe, too. Statues of Christopher Columbus have been beheaded in Boston and toppled, torched and tossed in a lake in Virginia. In Bristol, England, a monument to notorious slave trader Edward Colston was deep-sixed in the harbor.
Virginia is trying to nix a statue of General Robert E. Lee but is facing a legal challenge, and a judge has issued an injunction barring the monument’s removal.