President Thomas Jefferson descendant wants his statues taken down

Shannon LaNier is the sixth great-grandson of Jefferson who was a slave owner and owned Sally Hemings

(Credit: LaNier and AP Photo)

A descendant of President Thomas Jefferson wants his statues taken down as monuments to problematic figures have been removed, defaced and vandalized in recent weeks.

READ MORE: Charlottesville drops Thomas Jefferson birthday holiday to instead honor the enslaved

In May, George Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests over police brutality and renewed efforts to take down statues honoring Confederate idols. Shannon LaNier is the sixth great-grandson of Jefferson, a slave owner who owned Sally Hemings. 

In 1998, DNA evidence proved Jefferson had at least one child with Hemmings, who was enslaved at his Monticello estate in the late 18th century.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson (Shadwell, 1743-Charlottesville, 1826), American politician, scientist and architect, third President of the United States of America. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

LaNier wrote in an op-ed for Newsweek that there should be no statues in honor of those who have hurt their ancestors “beyond repair” and that these public tributes honored a “slave master, a murderer, or a white supremacist.”

He wrote that any molds of Jefferson, the third president of the United States, in the public square should also be removed.

“There are many statues of him that should come down. He was, after all, a participant in the institution of slavery—perhaps the most notorious one among the Founding Fathers, not least because of the jarring contrast between what he practiced and what he preached,” the veteran television host, social media influencer and author wrote.

LaNier continued that these statues were only erected to remind people of color of their “degraded” place in society below that of powerful white men. He also felt it was a form of manipulation and another hurt inflicted after slavery formally ended in 1863.

“Of course, the false idol is praised by many of their counterparts who fought for and funded the statue because they were all living that same lifestyle and attempting to reach the same ‘success’ at the expense of others,” he stated.

“For these reasons, and more, I think all the statues of people that are offensive or spiteful to a whole group of people, or statues that honor people that, by today’s standards, would be breaking the law, should be removed from public areas.”

LaNier expressed that statues in dedication to Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and Christopher Columbus were merely “symbols of hate, racism and slavery” and to honor these individuals and others was to validate their horrific actions.

“Now, I don’t think we should erase questionable statues from the face of the earth or rewrite history. But as a tax-paying citizen, I just do not want to contribute to the upkeep of the statues or look at these oppressors when I’m going about my daily life,” he wrote.

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

LaNier believes museums are an appropriate place for the statues in order to provide historical context without the need for a public shrine. He notes there are no statues of Adolf Hitler in Germany.

“It is imperative that we remember our history, that we don’t erase our complicated past, but preserve and learn from it while understanding where those figures fit into the fabric of our country,” he wrote.

“In the sentiment of Thomas Jefferson, we have to grow and change with our times.”

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