As officials around the country re-examine memorials of historical figures, a descendant of a former president says it is time for the memorial to be removed.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Lucian K. Truscott IV, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, says it is time for his memorial in Washington, D.C., to go.
Truscott shares how his great-aunt and great-grandmother would take him and his brother to Jefferson’s home, Monticello, “They treated Monticello like it was the family home, because in a way it was.”
“We didn’t need the Jefferson Memorial. Monticello was enough. It’s still enough. In fact, as a memorial to Jefferson himself, it’s almost perfect,” he said.
He continued, “That is why his memorial in Washington should be taken down and replaced. Described by the National Park Service as ‘a shrine to freedom,’ it is anything but.”
Truscott went on to note that Jefferson owned 600 slaves, and “upon his death, he did not free the people he enslaved, other than those in the Hemings family, some of whom were his own children. He sold everyone else to pay off his debts.”
Additionally, he noted that visitors of Monticello learn about Jefferson’s history as a slave owner and the writer of the Declaration of Independence.
“At Monticello, you will learn the history of Jefferson, the man who was president and wrote the Declaration of Independence, and you will learn the history of Jefferson, the slave owner. Monticello is an almost perfect memorial, because it reveals him with his moral failings in full, an imperfect man, a flawed founder.”
He added, “That’s why we don’t need the Jefferson Memorial to celebrate him. He should not be honored with a bronze statue 19 feet tall, surrounded by a colonnade of white marble. The time to honor the slave-owning founders of our imperfect union is past.”
Instead, Truscott said he woud like to see “a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of a Black woman, who was a slave and also a patriot, in place of a white man who enslaved hundreds of men and women is not erasing history. It’s telling the real history of America.”
As there have been protests against police violence and racism across the country, many have begun to re-examine statues and monuments of historical figures.
Across the country, protesters have torn down statues of Christopher Columbus due to his racist legacy. However, protesters have also targeted statues of George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.
And some have suggested that Mount Rushmore should be removed, as IJR reported.
The renewed focus on race and the legacies of past presidents come in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.