An 1833 statue of Thomas Jefferson will be booted from New York’s City Hall and sent on long-term loan to the New-York Historical Society, after some City Council members objected to its presence because Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves.
The Public Design Commission voted unanimously on Monday to remove the statue from the City Council chambers at City Hall. Instead, it will be on display with context about Jefferson’s legacy in the historical society’s lobby for six months and in its library reading room after that, museum officials said.
The statue by artist Pierre-Jean David d’Angers is a plaster model of the bronze Jefferson statue in the Capitol rotunda of the U.S. Congress.
Museum officials said in a statement they would offer context about Jefferson’s “complicated legacy” including “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.” It will be accessible to the public without an admission charge in both locations, they said.
The Public Design Commission was prepared to vote on moving the statue to the New-York Historical Society at its meeting last month, but critics of the plan said it would set a bad precedent to send a city-owned piece of art to a private museum. The commission approved the long-term loan with little discussion on Monday, though.
The statue was donated to the city in 1834 by Uriah Phillips Levy, who was the first Jewish commodore of the United States Navy and who commissioned the statue to honor Jefferson’s commitment to religious freedom.
The statue has stood in the room where the City Council meets.