In 2017, former President Trump warned that the push to erase memorials of controversial historical figures would eventually impact former presidents like the nation’s first, George Washington.
Towards the end of his administration, that actually happened. The nation saw both raucus demonstrations and government decisions in favor of censoring former presidents.
Here’s a list of those affected:
George Washington — America’s first president, and perhaps the most well-known founding father, was one of the many historical figures targeted by the San Francisco School Board. Last month, the board voted 6-1 to remove Washington’s name from a school in the district. Protesters also toppled a statue of Washington during racially-charged demonstrations last year.
Thomas Jefferson — Jefferson was America’s third president, the first U.S. secretary of state, second vice president, and he penned the Declaration of Independence. Regardless, he joined other American icons in becoming a target of San Francisco’s school board. Like Washington, Jefferson owned slaves and came under fire during demonstrations last year.
In June, for example, Hofstra University said it would remove a Jefferson statue from a prominent campus thoroughfare following a 2018 petition making that demand. A task force in Washington, D.C., also caused an uproar last year when it suggested the federal government should “remove, relocate, or contextualize” the Jefferson Memorial. It also proposed removing the founding father’s name from a school.
Andrew Jackson — This former president has long been criticized for forcibly relocating Native Americans in the Trail of Tears, during which thousands died. Earlier this week, news surfaced that Jackson’s name would be removed from a school in South Philadelphia.
Abraham Lincoln — The president who won the Civil War and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves in rebellious states to be free, hasn’t escaped cancel culture either. He recently came under fire for allowing 38 Native Americans to be hanged in a mass execution. San Francisco’s school board voted to remove Lincoln’s name from one of its schools. Another statue of Lincoln was removed from Boston last year. It featured the 16th president standing with a freed slave kneeling at his feet.
Ulysses S. Grant — Protesters in San Francisco also toppled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th U.S. president and general who led the North during the Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt — For years, the 26th president of the United States has been featured in a controversial statue outside of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The statue showed Roosevelt on a horse flanked by an indigenous person and an African. Mayor Bill De Blasio announced last year that he would remove that statue after the museum requested he do so. “The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” he said. “It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
Woodrow Wilson — One of the nation’s top schools, Princeton University, announced last year that it would remove the name of Wilson, a former student and president of the school, from one of its schools. “We have taken this extraordinary step because we believe that Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms,” a university statement read.
James Monroe, Herbert Hoover, James Garfield, William McKinley — Each of these former presidents was included among the names to be removed from 44 schools in San Francisco. The renaming was aimed at individuals who “engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide; or who otherwise significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
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