Legislature votes to add plaques to Andrew Jackson statues, noting history of slave ownership

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Andrew Jackson statues at the Jackson County Courthouse (left) and the Truman Courthouse (right)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The statues of President Andrew Jackson outside of the Jackson County courthouse and the Truman Courthouse will soon have plaques detailing his slave ownership and support for the Indian Removal Act.

The Jackson County Legislature voted 6-2 with one member not voting Monday to approve the language on the plaques. It will read as follows:

“In 1826, the Missouri State Legislature named this county after the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 — Andrew Jackson — nearly three years before he became the nation’s seventh President.”

“Almost two centuries later, we hold a broader, more inclusive view of our nation. Jackson’s ownership of slaves and his support for the Indian Removal Act are part of his history.”

“The act forced Native Americans from their home territories so that white settlers could live there and triggered the Trail of Tears, a 1,000-mile march resulting in the death of thousands, including an estimated one-quarter of the entire Cherokee nation.”

“This statue of Jackson reminds us we are on a path that in the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. bends toward justice.’

“In turn, we must acknowledge past injustices to help us create a greater nation built upon humane policies to light our way and the way of humanity everywhere. You may be entering this revered building today in a pursuit of truth or justice. Welcome. Your own history is still being written.”

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, whose office offered to pay for the plaques, said that she believed it was important to address Jackson’s history.

“We want everyone to know that justice can be found in this building for them, too. That’s why this  is  important to me,” she said.

Not everyone was on board with the change. Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said that the community was left out of the process.

As the first African-American to hold this office, and as the elected official who is responsible for our courthouses, I was shocked to learn that such an important conversation about the future of our County was happening without my knowledge or input.”

“If I had been consulted, I would have immediately said we need to open this discussion up to the community.  Unfortunately, I am left to assume that the advocates of this plaque knew I would have demanded we involve the community in these discussions and that is exactly why I was excluded.”

“I am hopeful that with the benefit of time and after hearing from those they serve, that the prosecuting attorney and members of the legislature will reconsider their actions, most notably their decision to exclude members of our community from these discussions.”

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