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Jackson County Voters Reject Initiative To Remove Statues Of Racist Namesake

The Andrew Jackson statue stands uncovered in front of the Jackson County Court House in Kansas City.
Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
The Andrew Jackson statue stands uncovered in front of the Jackson County Court House in Kansas City.

The equestrian statues of President Andrew Jackson on tall pedestals in downtown Kansas City and Independence are staying right where they are. Jackson County voters defeated a ballot issue to remove the monuments to a white supremacist.

Jackson County, Missouri, voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a plan to move statues of Andrew Jackson, despite the many protestors and public officials who wanted the monuments to a white supremacist taken down.

In Jackson County, 59% of voters said no to Question 2, even as two of the leaders who wanted the statues removed said late Tuesday they would continue to fight against the racism they reflect.

"I remain committed in my belief that the statues of a man who owned slaves, caused thousands of Native Americans to die and never stepped foot in our county should be removed from our public facilities," Jackson County Executive Frank White said in a statement sent.

"The statues are not an appropriate representation of who we are and who we strive to be as a community – a community that is welcoming, diverse and open-minded."

White said that while he has respect for the democratic process, there is something to learn from every election and he looks forward to more opportunities to eliminate racism and discrimination.

County Legislator Jalen Anderson was part of the effort to move the statues away from the public square this summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Late Tuesday, Anderson said he will try again to get the statues removed, but in the meantime, plaques should be posted giving a brief but unflinching history of the county’s namesake.

“I can see that as a next step. I don’t see that as the end of the story with these statues of President Jackson, but I believe that’s probably the next chapter,” Anderson said.

Language for the signs was approved late last year, but they were never installed.

Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812, was the seventh U.S. president. Jackson forced Native American tribes out of the east, killing thousands of native people in the process. He also believed in slavery and owned more than 200 enslaved people over the course of his life.

In June, County Executive Frank White called for removal of the statue, following its defacing by two vandals. Then in August, the Jackson County Legislature ducked deciding the issue and sent the proposal to the voters.

Correction: The percentage of voters rejecting Question 2 has been updated to include votes from the Kansas City Election Board.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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