Officials to add slavery plaque to Jefferson Memorial so visitors can consider former president's 'complexity'
Stewards of the National Mall announced that an exhibit adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial will soon include a plaque noting the Founding Father’s status as a slaveholder.
In the aftermath of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, which killed one woman and injured approximately 20 others, left-wing activists began calls for statues and memorials to Confederate soldiers to be pulled down. Some liberals have extended calls for tearing down monuments to slaveholding Founding Fathers.
"In the coming weeks and months, the physical symbols of American history and democracy will be scrutinized and challenged," Trust for the National Mall President Catherine Townsend wrote in a letter to supporters. "When that happens, we will work with our partners to ensure the National Mall continues to be a vibrant and relevant place where Americans can learn about our history and imagine our future, together."
"We can reflect the momentous contributions of someone like Thomas Jefferson, but also consider carefully the complexity of who he was," an official with the Trust for the National Mall told the Washington Examiner. "And that's not reflected right now in the exhibits."
After the events of Charlottesville occurred, mayors, cities and universities across the country began caving into the increased demands to remove statues and memorials honoring Confederate heroes. But the calls didn't stop with Civil War-era historical figures, and soon protesters began calling for the removal of statues and monuments commemorating slave-holding Founding Fathers and former presidents.
"We've been talking about this for a long time. And nobody should be deceived. This isn't really about taking down the statues of segregationists or racists. This is about going right after the Founders," Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said Monday on "The Laura Ingraham Show."
"And so what they really intend to do is take down Thomas Jefferson at [University of Virginia] and Monticello and take down any reference to George Washington anywhere — any slaveholder anywhere," Schlapp said.
Jefferson founded UVA in 1819, and Monticello was Jefferson's plantation.
Schlapp argued that Confederate statues and memorials were established with the primary goal of honoring how a bitterly divided country came back together once more in the aftermath of the Civil War.
"We came back together. And that's what these statues were about. They were about healing after a Civil War," Schlapp said. "I actually think the people behind [the removals] don't want to heal America. They want to undo America."
Liberal civil rights activist Al Sharpton, in particular, said in a recent interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose that he resented the fact that his tax dollars go toward supporting the Jefferson Memorial's upkeep, due to Jefferson's history as a slaveholder.
"This is personal to us. My great-grandfather was a slave in South Carolina ... People need to understand that people were enslaved," Sharpton said. "Public monuments [to people like Jefferson] are supported by public funds."
"You're asking me to subsidize the insult to my family," Sharpton added. "And I would repeat that the public should not be paying to uphold somebody who had that kind of background. You have private museums. You have other things that you may want to do, but that's not even the issue here, Charlie. We're talking about here, an open display of bigotry announced and over and over again."
Claiming the Republican Party is often "cowardly at these moments" when liberals attempt to label them as racists, Schlapp urged conservatives to "remind the American people" of their own history.
"The Republican Party was an outgrowth of the desire to stop slavery. We did pass the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and Civil Rights acts in the 1960s, of which the Republican Party was the major thrust behind," Schlapp said. "We have a great story, and conservatives have a great story to tell here. Don't let the Left, which is based in the Democratic Party, lecture us on these questions of civil rights. They get away with it and they shouldn't."