As efforts continue to remove statues and monuments to Confederate leaders, some activists have expanded such calls to include problematic figures from the founding of the United States.
According to the Washington Examiner, a group of New York City council members has asked Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove a statue honoring Thomas Jefferson from City Hall.
The nation’s third president and the Declaration of Independence’s author, Jefferson has long held a revered position as a founding father. Nevertheless, he was a slave owner, and that is enough for some to demand his visage be stripped from public places like the location of the New York statue.
“That starts with City Hall”
According to NBC New York, Council Speaker Corey Johnson first issued the public call to de Blasio on Thursday in a letter supported by other members of the council — including the co-chairs of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.
“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 letter stated, according to NBC New York. “There are disturbing images of divisiveness and racism in our City that need to be revisited immediately. That starts with City Hall.”
Calling the Jefferson statue “inappropriate,” the council members wrote that it “serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country” and “must be removed.”
Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves and “maintained that Blacks were inferior to whites,” the statement continued, as NBC New York reported.
“But where does it end?”
“His words are ‘all men are created equal’ but they were not matched by his action, which included the ability to sell, buy, mortgage and lease human beings,” Councilwoman Debi Rose, a Democrat representing Staten Island, added in a statement of her own, according to the New York Post.
She went on to decry Jefferson as a bigoted racist, asserting that the council “should neither ignore nor glorify this dark side of American history.”
Some councilmembers — including Democrat Robert Holden — were not on board with the plan, though.
“I was totally appalled when I heard that, and ashamed to be a council member in that moment,” Holden said, according to the Examiner. “At this point, you can go after any historical figure it seems. Yes, we have blemishes in our past, and I can understand wanting to remove confederate generals’ statues. But where does it end?”
The push to remove Confederate relics has broad enough approval to hopefully lead to some racial reconciliation in modern America. If emerging efforts to erase representations of founding fathers continue, however, some people who would otherwise support the cause might think twice.