NEW YORK — An obscure city panel may vote to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from its place in the City Council chambers amid controversy over the Founding Father’s history as a slaveholder.
The city Public Design Commission will decide Monday whether to loan the statue to the City Historical Society, effectively ending its nearly two-century run in one of the city's most revered spots.
The “long-term loan” of the statue is listed as a so-called consent item, meaning the 11-member committee of architecture and museum notables will vote up or down after reviewing any public comments submitted virtually.
City Council Speaker Cory Johnson and four other council members signed a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020 asking for the Jefferson statue to be removed. They acted soon after the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests for racial justice.
The 1833 cast-iron statue was created by Pierre-Jean David and was donated to the city a year later by Jefferson admirer and Navy commandant Uriah Phillips Levy.
The statue first came under fire in 2001 when then-Councilmember Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat, called for it to be replaced with an image of Malcolm X.
Its removal from the place of honor in the City Council chambers would mark another milestone in the campaign to reassess public monuments and memorials dedicated to historical figures with decidedly controversial histories.
Most of the movement’s energy has focused on removing statues of Confederate officials and generals. But many activists say the United States should also take another look at honors for the Founding Fathers, who also owned slaves and held opinions that would be considered virulently racist in modern times.
Traditionalists counter that removing statues of any historic figure with a checkered past amounts to sanitizing history.
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