The University of Missouri of Curators has rejected a recommendation to place an interpretative sign next to its Thomas Jefferson statue by a vote of 7-1.
Board members who voted against the sign expressed that they “did not know how to add proper context to the statue.”
Todd Graves, District Six Curator, explained that it was not their responsibility to decide what the sign about Jefferson should say.
“This is supposed to be an institution of higher learning where our students and our faculty are capable of making decisions and exploring these things. I don’t know that we need to give them a road map or an officially sanctioned view or institutionally sanctioned view,” Graves said.
Balanced Commemoration of Jefferson’s Legacy
The Task Force for Contextualization of the Thomas Jefferson Statue was established by University of Missouri System President Mun Choi to study the issue after racial equity and social justice protests last summer prompted the administration to take a closer look at the legacy of the statue. Such examination is in line with a nationwide reckoning of historical figures and their legacies at higher education institutions.
Since Choi decided not to remove the statue from campus, the task force recommended creating a sign with a 300-word explanation on the strengths and shortcomings of Jefferson.
The sign would also have included a QR code that linked to additional resources.
While Jefferson is widely known for his work as the third president of the United States and his role as co-author of the Declaration of Independence, many question his legacy because he owned over 600 slaves throughout his life and fathered children with an enslaved woman in his household.