A statue of Thomas Jefferson that has overlooked the city council chambers in New York for more than 100 years finally has a new home.
The council voted unanimously last month to remove the statue from the chamber, but a new location remained unresolved. A city commission answered that question this week.
The statue is headed to the New-York Historical Society, where it will be placed in its lobby gallery in April. The 7-foot statue will reside there for 6 months, then be relocated to the museum’s reading room for the next 10 years.
“From the start, we have seen the opportunity to display the statue as consistent with the ways in which we look at history at our institution,” Louise Mirrer, the historical society’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “Jefferson just has to be one of those figures that really draws attention to the distance between our founding and the reality of our nation.”
The city council opted last month to remove the statue because of Jefferson’s history as a slave owner.
“(Jefferson) should not be in a position of honor and recognition and tribute” in the chamber, council member Inez Barron said during a debate on the matter. She noted Jefferson “felt that Blacks were inferior to whites, in his own words.”
There was little disagreement about removing the statue from the chambers. The debate was whether Jefferson would be moved to another location in City Hall or a different building.
This week, the Public Design Commission settled on the historical society for the destination.
At least one council member said the decision couldn’t come soon enough.
“If they want to treat this relic as some type of work of art, so be it,” said I. Daneek Miller. “The removal needs to be expedited.”
With the new location now determined, city officials will have to determine a timeline for the move of the statue. They expect it to happen before the end of the year.
The statue was commissioned by Uriah Levy as a gift for Congress. Levy donated the plaster model to New York in 1834, and it has been in the council chambers for more than 100 years.
“The statue will be given appropriate historical context, including details of Thomas Jefferson’s complicated legacy — his contributions as a founder and draftsman of the Declaration of Independence and the contradiction between his vision of human equality and his ownership of enslaved people — and the statue’s original purpose as a tribute to Jefferson’s staunch defense of freedom of religion and separation of church and state,” the museum said in a statement.
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