New York City commission to vote on removing Thomas Jefferson statue from city hall

The city's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote that the statue "symbolizes the disgusting and racist basis on which American was founded."

Updated: October 18, 2021 - 8:31am

For more than a century, a 7-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson has stood in the New York City Hall. On Monday, the Public Design Commission is scheduled to vote on, and will likely approve, the statue's removal.

The City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus requested that the statue be removed.

The statue will likely be loaned long-term to the New-York Historical Society if the full council votes in favor of its removal. 

"How the hell can people see as a hero someone who had hundreds of enslaved Africans, someone who was a racist and who said we were inferior and someone who was a slaveholding pedophile?" Assemblyman Charles Barron asked.

Barron led an effort in 2001 to get the statue removed.

"For him to be canonized in a statue is incredible – incredibly racist," he also said.

Jefferson, a founding father and the author of the Declaration of Independence, kept more than 600 slaves and fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemmings. 

The statue at City Hall is a plaster copy of the bronze statue of Jefferson that resides in the Capitol Rotunda in D.C. The one in New York was commissioned in 1833 by the first Jewish commodore in the U.S. Navy – Uriah P. Levy – to commemorate Jefferson's dedication to the tenets of religious freedom in the armed forces.

In 2017, following the Charlottesville riot, which took place in part as a protest due to plans to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared created a commission that would create a set of guidelines for reviewing historical markers. 

Earlier this year, the city's Public Design Commission voted to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History. A long-term loan to an unnamed culture institution has been approved, but the statue has remained in place. 

In 2019, the council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus again tried to have the statue removed, writing in a letter to the council speaker that the statue "symbolizes the disgusting and racist basis on which American was founded."

Following the death of George Floyd in 2020, the speaker and the caucus took their request to de Blasio, saying that the statue is "a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country."