“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,” Debi Rose who represents the often forgotten, Staten Island, said of the perhaps the most famous founding father America has.
Jefferson was author of the Declaration of Independence as well as key components of the Bill of Rights. His ideas were widely seen as novel and fresh, with words like Freedom for all, and Equality driving the inspiration for the American Revolution.
Rose continued that “he believed black people to be racially inferior, said black Americans and white Americans could not live peacefully side by side and he fathered as many as six children with a woman he enslaved.”
Rose was part of a five-member committee that had signed the request. She has the backing of the City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson as well.
“I believe the New York City Council should neither ignore nor glorify this dark side of American history,” she said.
Some council members quickly distanced themselves from the group of five, saying that Speaker Johnson, a white, progressive apologist, ‘was trying to erase history’ instead of respect it by supporting the ridiculous proposal.
“I was totally appalled when I heard that, and ashamed to be a council member in that moment. At this point, you can go after any historical figure it seems,” said Queensborough Councilman Robert Holden.
“Yes, we have blemishes in our past, and I can understand wanting to remove confederate generals’ statues. But where does it end?”
Councilman Joe Borelli, a rare Republican in the NYC government, who is also from Staten Island argued that packing up the statue is the kind of move a totalitarian government would make.
“Someone should explain to me which civilization that banned or destroyed art has ever been considered liberal and progressive,” he said. “ISIS? The Communists? The Jacobins? Henry VIII? Who? Tell me.”
City Hall’s historic status means any relocation must eventually be approved by de Blasio and the Public Design Commission, Speaker Johnson said.
It’s the latest example of how America is reexamining its view of major historical figures who took part in slave holding, the Confederacy and segregation following Floyd’s police-custody killing by Minneapolis police officers.
One of the officers was captured on tape kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the African American man cried out that he could not breathe.
The video of the arrest provided new momentum for the effort to move Jefferson’s statue from City Hall, which dates back two decades and was originally led by now-Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron.
Jefferson was the nation’s third president and is, perhaps, most famous for his contributions to the American Revolution, including crafting the Declaration.
However, in recent years, historians have unearthed volumes of information about Jefferson and his apparent relationship with a slave, Sally Hemings, with whom he fathered six children.
Jefferson lived in a different time and often struggled with the Slavery question. During the debate over the wording of the Declaration, the South, from where Jefferson hailed and typically aligned, refused to sign a document granting slaves freedom.
Jefferson was allowed to keep in the phrase “All men are created equal” after accepting that slaves from Africa should not be counted a whole man.
The compromise haunted Jefferson, however in order to bring about the opportunity for freedom, he relented and went on to be the third President of the United States.
A spokeswoman for de Blasio, who’s panel spared the Columbus statue, said they were reviewing the request.