Black History, Hofstra University, News, Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson -

Thomas Jefferson statue creates heated racial climate on Hofstra U. campus

Black History, Hofstra University, News, Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson -

Thomas Jefferson statue creates heated racial climate on Hofstra U. campus

Students at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., are hotly debating as some protest for the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, citing his ownership of slaves, while others are in favor of keeping it, citing the third U.S. president’s historical importance.

The students will converge in a planned protest and counter-protest on the Hofstra campus on Friday. The demonstration was originally planned as an outdoor event but organizers, citing threats received, decided to move it indoors and close it to media.

The dueling viewpoints are playing out online, as each separate movement has an online petition attached to their cause and are gradually growing in supporters.

READ MORE: Michigan State University under fire for not expelling student for racist tweet

Deep issues

According to New York’s WPIX, student Ja’loni Owens created the original Change.org petition approximately two weeks ago, stating that the Thomas Jefferson statue on their central campus’ Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center should be taken down.

Citing issues relative to “slavery, rape, eugenics, and anti-black racism,” the online summary begins with a trigger warning and an explanation regarding the significance of the location that the statue was erected.

“While Jefferson’s architectural designs have gone on to inspire the designs of many American universities,” Owens wrote. “Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States.”

“Justifying enslavement Jefferson explained, ‘It is not their condition, but nature…which has produced the distinction’ between the slave and the slave master.  He went on to write, ‘…besides differences in color and hair, black people secreted less by the kidneys and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odor,’ ” the petition continued.

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The petition also references Jefferson’s fathering of Black children with slaves. In 1998, DNA evidence proved that he had at least one child with Sally Hemmings, who was enslaved at his Monticello estate in the late 18th century.

It asks for Hofstra’s administrators to remove the sculpture from in front of the student center and to no longer display it on campus. The statue was gifted to the university by its trustee David Mack.

The petition for removal has reached up to 897 signees so far and counting.

The counterpoint

But an opposition petition was created by Hofstra student Richard Caldwell. The counter-argument, which was created Tuesday, also lives on Change.org and has so far found 1,132 supporters and growing.

The argument states that Jefferson “simply participated in” slavery and that his actions are “something that all white men” of his status did at the time.

It later continued, “There are also many people who believe in [the notion that Jefferson was flawed] and also see Thomas Jefferson as a hero, for founding the very country we live free in today. To shun them, to one sidely demand the removal of this statue, to refuse conversation from the opposing side who believes it should stand, only divides us more,” it says.

Hofstra administrators commented on the opposing views, writing in a statement that they “look forward to continuing a civil exchange of ideas and perspectives on the subject.”

READ MORE: Confederate site in Baltimore rededicated to Harriet Tubman

The post Thomas Jefferson statue creates heated racial climate on Hofstra U. campus appeared first on theGrio.


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