An 1833 statue of Thomas Jefferson will be taken out of New York’s City Hall in the coming days and sent to a museum, capping longstanding efforts to remove the founding father’s likeness because he owned slaves.
Asked about the statue on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he understood why Jefferson’s history as a slaveowner “profoundly bothers people, and why they find it’s something that can’t be ignored.” The statue has stood in the room where the City Council meets.
A little-known city board called the Public Design Commission is expected to approve the statue’s move on Monday from the City Council Chamber to the New-York Historical Society as a long-term loan.
The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the Council said in a statement the city government should “resolve that the individuals memorialized within the confines of our People’s House be reflective not only of the best traditions of our city’s history and its diversity but unquestionable character.”
Jefferson, the nation’s third president, has become a contentious figure in recent years as advocates for racial justice have demanded the removal of statues of Confederate generals and others who carried out racist policies.
Although Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he did not support the emancipation of enslaved Africans and owned hundreds of slaves himself.
City Hall’s Jefferson statue is a painted plaster model of the statue by French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers that stands in the Capitol rotunda of the U.S. Congress. It depicts the founding father with a pen in one hand and the Declaration of Independence in the other.
A spokesperson for the New-York Historical Society said the statue may be part of an exhibit in the future.