After the uproar from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville two weeks ago, New York City leaders are debating removing monuments to Confederate leaders like Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as well as other racist or otherwise problematic figures.
Mayor Bill de Blasio started things off by announcing the removal of a plaque marking French Marshal Philippe Pétain 1931 ticker tape parade from the Canyon of Heroes. Marshal Pétain, a World War I hero for his leadership of the French Army, collaborated with the Nazis as the leader of the Vichy French government during World War II. Now, he’s announcing the creation of a commission to evaluate who else should be on the chopping block.
On the list:
- Christopher Columbus’ statue at Columbus Circle. Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams described him as “the biggest genocidal murderer the globe has ever seen.”
- Statues dedicated to former President Ulysses S. Grant. Though he led the Union armies in defeating the Confederacy, he also expelled Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. (That order was reversed by President Abraham Lincoln). Grant’s tomb is in Riverside Park, though the memorial itself is a national monument.
- A City Hall portrait of Horatio Seymour, a former Governor of New York who ran for President in 1868 with the motto “Let white men rule.”
- A statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims in Central Park. Considered the founder of the field of gynecology, he experimented on African-American slaves without their consent or anesthetics. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has led a years-long campaign against the statue which is in her East Harlem-based district.
Get Real: The statue of Sims is long-overdue for removal and if anyone recognized Horatio Seymour, his portrait would have been removed already. But Christopher Columbus and Ulysses S. Grant are remembered for more than just their problematic acts and there’s no real momentum to get rid of either.