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Thomas Jefferson Is Being Evicted From NY City Hall

Commission votes unanimously to remove statue of president who had 600 slaves
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2021 7:30 PM CDT
Updated Oct 19, 2021 12:00 AM CDT
Thomas Jefferson Is Being Evicted From NY City Hall
In this July 14, 2010 photo, a statue of Thomas Jefferson stands in New York's City Hall Council Chamber.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(Newser) – After more than 100 years, a statue of Thomas Jefferson is being evicted from the New York City Council chamber at City Hall. The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously Monday to remove the statue, but its final destination is unclear, ABC7 reports. Calls to remove the 7-foot statue of the nation's third president because he was a slaveowner began in 2001, and the issue got fresh attention in the wake of last year's George Floyd protests, reports the New York Times. Commission members were split on plans to send it on long-term loan to the New York Historical Society because it would have involved fees. Members suggested sending it to New York Public Library or a small museum inside City Hall instead.

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Jefferson owned around 600 slaves, and historians believe he fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemings, in a relationship that began when she was around 14 years old. "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 led the push to have the statue removed in 2001, tells the Times. "For him to be canonized in a statue is incredible—incredibly racist." Committee members say they will find a new home for the statue by the end of the year.

The City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus had requested the removal of the statue, a plaster model of the bronze statue in the Capitol Rotunda. It arrived at City Hall in 1834 and was moved to the council chamber around 80 years later. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio described Jefferson as a "complex" historical figure. Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa, who held a "Save Our Statue" rally last week, has vowed that the statue will be returned to City Hall if he wins next month's election. (The University of Missouri has installed protection for Jefferson's original headstone.)

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