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Jackson County Voters Will Decide The Fate Of Andrew Jackson Statues In November

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Andrew Jackson statue on the north side of the Jackson County courthouse in Kansas City stands shrouded in tarp, anchored with sandbags while decisions on its fate are pending.

Following weeks of protests against racism in Kansas City, Missouri, the Jackson County legislature is leaving the future of two Andrew Jackson statues outside of the county courthouses to the voters.

Jackson County voters will get to decide whether to keep statues of the seventh United States president Andrew Jackson in front of the county’s two courthouses. The Jackson County Legislature voted 7-2 Monday to put the issue on the November ballot.

The decision follows a push by Jackson County executive Frank White, Jr. and other county officials to remove the statues in front of the Jackson County Courthouses in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Historic Truman Courthouse located in Independence.

“Countless men, women and children come through the doors of our courthouses every day. And every day, racism and discrimination are staring them in the face," White said when he introduced the ordinance last week.

Statues of Jackson have become the target of many protests across the country, as protests against racism extend to racist monuments. President Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder in Tennessee, signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The act led to the expulsion of Native Americans east of the Mississippi and the death of thousands of Cherokees as they were forced to march to Oklahoma. The tragedy became known as the Trail of Tears.

Legislators decided on Monday to leave the final decision to the people of Jackson County.

“If at that time the voters choose to remove the statue, I will have a committee assigned by the following legislative meeting to determine what to do with the statue at that time,” said legislative chair Theresa Galvin.

County legislator Jalen Anderson argued the representatives should make a decision on the behalf of their constituents instead of waiting for the November vote.

“It's not that Andrew Jackson was just a bad person. It's not that Andrew Jackson doesn't represent who you are today. It's the idea of what government truly means to its people, and this is a stain on government itself,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s proposal to take down the Jackson statues immediately failed in a 3-6 vote, leading White to criticize the legislature for avoiding “tough decisions.”

“This is truly a body that doesn’t want to do what it’s been elected to do. They don’t want to have criticism, and when that comes, you want to push this off on the public,” said White.

This isn’t the first time there has been a push to remove the statues. In December 2019, the county Legislature passed a resolution to create a plaque to put Jackson in historical context that acknowledged him as a slave owner and his role in the death of "an estimated one-quarter of the Cherokee Nation."

The recent protest movement in Kansas City and around the nation has renewed calls to take down or rename public art commemorating confederate heroes or otherwise racist historical figures. The statue outside of the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City was vandalized last month and two people were taken into custody in front of police headquarters.

Legislators agree that if the statues are removed, they should not be destroyed. White recommended putting them in a museum where they can be given historical context.

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