New York City officials on Monday unanimously voted to remove a seven-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall, The New York Times reports.
The city’s Public Design Commission, which oversees art at city-owned property, voted to remove the statue but delayed a decision on where to relocate 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,” Commission President Signe Nielsen told the Times.
The City Council’s Black and Asian Caucus requested that the statue be removed over Jefferson’s legacy and his history as a slaveholder.
The New York Historical Society already agreed to house the statue but the commission has not yet approved the move. The statue will remain up until the end of the year.
Black and Latino leaders pushed for removal:
A group of Black and Latino lawmakers called for the statue to be removed because it serves as “a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country.”
Queens Councilwoman Adrienne Adams charged at a recent hearing that Jefferson “embodies some of the most shameful parts of our country’s history.”
Other Jefferson statues have been removed in Georgia and Oregon.
Some are calling for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington should be replaced as well.
A group of 17 historians sent a letter to the commission on Monday arguing that the statue should remain in City Hall but be moved to the governor’s room where it was originally housed.
“Removal is a very simple solution that will erase the debate,” Raymond Lavertue, a historian at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, testified to the committee, urging them to keep the statue in the “seat of government in a public space.”
Jefferson was “massively flawed,” he said, but his ideas should be “grappled with daily.”
The debate over statues began over Civil War figures and some historians worry that the trend has extended to the Founders.
“This represents a lumping together of the Confederates and a member of the founding generation in a way which I think minimizes the crimes and the problems with the Confederacy,” Harvard Law Professor Annette Gordon-Reed told the Times.