Founding Fathers And Slaveholders–Where Does The Monument Controversy End?

George Washington, shown here in an 1853 lithograph, oversees his slaves at Mount Vernon. (The Granger Collection, NYC)

George Washington enslaved people. So did Thomas Jefferson. James Madison too. You can pick apart just about anyone’s life and discover disquieting things. Tear down those Columbus monuments, some demand. Rip down those confederate monuments.

We salute presidents with holidays. We celebrate founding fathers for the glory and bravery and thoughtfulness. Some enslaved people.

White out the holidays? Erase their memories? Powerwash history? Or place it into redeemable context?

Should Washington and Jefferson be scrubbed? Where does it end?

From Stephen Ambrose, Smithsonian Magazine:

Americans in great numbers are rediscovering their founding fathers in such best-selling books as Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers, David McCullough’s John Adams and my own Undaunted Courage, about Lewis and Clark. There are others who believe that some of these men are unworthy of our attention because they owned slaves, Washington, Jefferson, Clark among them, but not Adams. They failed to rise above their time and place, though Washington (but not Jefferson) freed his slaves. But history abounds with ironies. These men, the founding fathers and brothers, established a system of government that, after much struggle, and the terrible violence of the Civil War, and the civil rights movement led by black Americans, did lead to legal freedom for all Americans and movement toward equality.

Let’s begin with Thomas Jefferson, because it is he who wrote the words that inspired subsequent generations to make the heroic sacrifices that transformed the words “All men are created equal” into reality.

In 1996 I was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin. The History Club there asked me to participate in a panel discussion on “Political Correctness and the University.” The professor seated next to me taught American political thought. I remarked to her that when I began teaching I had required students to read five or six books each semester, but I had cut that back to three or four or else the students would drop my course. She said she had the same problem. She had dropped Thomas Jefferson’s writings from the required reading list.

“You are in Madison, being paid by the citizens of Wisconsin to teach their children American political thought, and you leave out Tom Jefferson?”

“Yes,” she replied. “He was a slaveholder.” More than half the large audience applauded.

Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.

Full story here.



  1. Erasing history. The Iranian government says that the holocaust never happened. If society removes everything about WWII then in time Iran will be correct.
    One big fucking joke, what’s going on now!!

    1. Who’s talking about erasing history., I said that he had to be discuss and when you discuss the topic you get to the truth of history but it seems that many just want to move on and forget, right Rich,

      1. Ron, you know the truth. What discussion do you want? What do you want to do? Do you want to take Barnum’s statue out from the park, cancel the Barnum Festival? I can only assume the museum would stay and a place to put it. Not if it was up to Comrade Joseph though. 🙂

        Do you want to join Comrade Joseph in remove it? You just have to wait until he gets his lower hanging fruit. He’s not into discussing it right now because his plate is full, and it would be like skipping the entree and going to dessert, right Comrade. 🙂 JS

  2. Well one thing is certain is that when considering the removal of symbols of white supremacy, (Whether a named building or a statute) especially in “minority” communities permission should not be sought from those benefiting from white privilege. In fact the most disturbing comment I read in regards to Mr. Cruz statue removal was the need to take into consideration the Italians that contribute economy in Bridgeport.

    Any business should be made to decide what is more important to them, the dollars of the black and brown community (and their supporters) or a icon to a man who got lost and “discovered” a land from which he kidnapped the very first victims in these lands of white supremacy.

    Let’s start with getting rid of Columbus statue and school name. Then we can have a further discussion about the remaining icons.

  3. Comrade, Joseph Stalin, I mean Sokolivic. Your Marxist views on not talking to the Italian community regarding a celebration they have been celebrated for over a 100 years show you seem to be more concerned about the word “white” then “Supremacy” Considering you want to will your views seem supreme over the minority “white” Italians.? Comrade, did you forget our history lesson already on Black Supremacy and their occupation of the Italian and Iberian Peninsula?

    I see you have your sickle on the low hanging fruit of Columbus yet eyeing higher on PT Barnum. “Any business should be made to decide what is more important to them, the dollars of the black and brown community”

    After you first get rid of Columbus statues and school name of course. Comrade let me know when your sickle has its blade on George Washington monuments, history, and legacy as being a founder Father of America, and the death if it.

    Ron as you can see comrade Joseph can care less about a minority in a community. For him, the discussion is over. PT Barnum, name, building, and statue, in a city he built, must go. He just needs the majority on board like the minority Italian community who care about a discussion with them, “permission should not be sought from those benefiting from white privilege” That view reeks of Superiority over the minority.

    Considering comrade Joseph is white and lives in America he has inherently benefited from America’s White Privilege. So the question is should his permission be sought because he himself had benefited from white privilege. Right JML?

    I can only assume comrade Joseph, being white, has to know he is a recipient of white privilege America? I can’t say for sure. So what say you black and brown people? Does white comrade, Joseph know what it’s like being black or brown in America? Day Ron, please chime in and leave Maria out of it, Burn the tapes. 🙂

    Ron lets not forget you praised Moore of securing funds for PT’s museum in a prior discussion and the Lord’s prayer about forgiveness. You are going to have to draw your own line on your food chain. but make sure they don’t give you crumbs and tell you its steak. JS

    P.S Comrade. this carpenter pencil is at you dispose of when you need it again. It will be that toolbox of yours. BAM! 🙂

  4. “Mississippi Legislature votes to remove Confederate icon from state flag”

    Brittany Shammas
    June 28, 2020 at 9:14 p.m. EDT

    The Barnum Museum and the Barnum Festival need to tell the whole story about PT Barnum like so many institutions, businesses, schools, city, state and federal government agencies both private and public. There are plenty of writing and articles about the PT Barnum that are not mentioned at the Barnum Museum.

    1. Ron, you know PT story. He somewhat exploited people of freak nature and defrauded people in the process. Like the born lady, a midget. The history is out there. The question is do you want to cancel him out of The Port’s history, and join your Comrade, Joe.? Not sure if this is part of your PT Libray catalog, but believe PT spoke against slavery prior to the Civil War and made the speech to Connecticut legislation body to grant blacks who are equal to whites voters the right to vote.

      Here’s an excerpt.

      “So it is with the poor African. You may take a dozen specimens of both sexes from the lowest type of man found in Africa; their race has been buried for ages in ignorance and barbarism, and you can scarcely perceive that they have nay more of manhood or womanhood than so many orangutans or gorillas. You look at their low foreheads, their thick skulls, and lips, their woolly heads, their flat noses, their dull, lazy eyes, and you may be tempted to adopt the language of this minority committee, and exclaim: Surely these people have “no inventive faculties, no genius for the arts, or for any of those occupations requiring intellect and wisdom.” But bring them out into the light of civilization; let them and their children come into the genial sunshine of Christianity; teach them industry, self-reliance, and self-respect; let them learn what too few white Christians have yet understood, that cleanliness is akin to godliness, and a part of godliness; and the human soul will begin to develop itself. Each generation, blessed with churches and common schools, will gradually exhibit the result of such culture; the low foreheads will be raised and widened by an active and expanded brain; the vacant eye of barbarism, ignorance, and idleness will light up with the fire of intelligence, education, ambition, activity and Christian civilization; and you will find the immortal soul asserting her dignity, by the development of a man who would startle, by his intelligence”

  5. Ron, the thing you have to understand, this Cancel culture in the name of ending white supremacy has nothing to do will black lives. It’s to cancel America. Ask your comrade, Joe, how is he suppose to fight to end white supremacy if he himself is white? You say we need a discussion on PT history. Well if the Barnum festival was no more, and his statue removed would we need a discussion? Image if his homes were still up in the Port. The richness to give the Port. Didn’t they even want to demolish his museum to make way for the bank? How does taking down a statue move a country forward? Does it change the pass or history? No, it inshrine the pass and history. Removing it silences it. So there wouldn’t need a discussion. JS

  6. Once again the WHOLE TRUE story about PT Barnum must be told by the Barnum Museum and the Barnum Festival, they can not stick their head in the ground because there is a movement going in America and major businesses, institutions, colleges local, state and federal government are now telling the true story about those were celebrated but who owned slaves or who racist like Barnum was the world”s Greatest Showman who took his racism around the world that blacks were the lowest form and were to be looked at as an animal. There is nothing in the Barnum Museum that tells the story of the wrongs of Barnum and how he changed if he did or if he didn’t change and acknowledge the harm Barnum instill into the minds of whites a viewpoint about blacks around the world. Please don’t think that PT Barnum will be overlooked during these times in fact even Yale is struggling with its past.

    Ron Mackey says:
    June 29, 2020 at 9:13 am
    “Mississippi Legislature votes to remove Confederate icon from state flag”
    Brittany Shammas
    June 28, 2020 at 9:14 p.m. EDT
    The Barnum Museum and the Barnum Festival need to tell the whole story about PT Barnum like so many institutions, businesses, schools, city, state and federal government agencies both private and public. There are plenty of writing and articles about the PT Barnum that are not mentioned at the Barnum Museum.

    1. Even with the little information that is on this topic that has the source is enough for the Barnum Museum and the Barnum Festival to take some type of action and there is much more information out there about Barnum that was easy to post here.

      “The next wave of statue removals is afoot. See where they’re being taken down across the U.S.”
      Updated June 29, 2020, 12:20 PM EDT
      By Erik Ortiz and Kaleigh O’Boyle

      From the Northeast to the Midwest to the Deep South, contentious symbols of America’s past are coming down.
      They include monuments to Confederate soldiers, statues of Christopher Columbus and bronze figures of controversial politicians — both old and recent displays that many people now consider to be emblematic of the nation’s ills and its long legacy of racism and oppression.

      The swift removal in 2020 of these monuments and markers from public settings comes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose death in police custody has reignited a national debate about such icons and whether they’re pieces of history that should be preserved or, instead, must be taken down and even destroyed. Note that not all removed statues are removed permanently, statues may be removed in an effort to preserve them from damage or to eventually be put in a museum.

      There’s a saying out there, “There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase closely associated with P. T. Barnum, don’t be a sucker.

  7. Really, Barnum instills into the minds of whites a viewpoint about blacks around the world. What did he instill about bearded ladies? midget and freaks. Let’s not forget your history when you supported and defended a racist.,black%20woman%20named%20Joice%20Heth.&text=According%20to%20the%20Smithsonian%20Magazine,at%20the%20sum%20of%20%241000.

    His story and history is being told. Ron tells me how PT used blacks any different than any other people in his business? He is more product, of his time than the man. JS comrade. Did you ask what your racist comrade Bob thinks of PT?

  8. While the museum should express the darker side of PT business and the times he lived in, but do you think he is a racist like you thought of was Bob for his racist expression?

    “The group, which included Baker, former Board of Education head Max Medina and former Firebird Society President Ronald Mackey, praised Walsh’s record of service and indicated they don’t believe he’s racist. ”

    Ron, are you going to Praise PT’s record like you praised Bob’s record regardless of his racist tendency?

    Let’s not forget Judge Lopez stated, “no one is perfect” when she supported Bob after his racist rant. Did you ask her if she supports yours and your Comrade, Joe’s view on removing PT for the Port’s history, a city he helped built even though his record shows he campaigned for equality for the slaves? JS

  9. Denigrate
    The time is now for the Bridgeport Park Commission take action remove PT Barnum’s statute from its location in Seaside Park, it’s also time for Mayor Joe Ganim and the Bridgeport City Council express their agreement with the removal of the PT Barnum’s statute from its location in Seaside Park because of PT Barnum going around America denigrate blacks as being less than human and becoming rich. It is clear that the foundation of his career was built upon the systemic exploitation of non-white people, who were exhibited and paraded in front of large audiences in a variety of degrading ways.

    PT Barnum is no better than what Orange County, California, are doing with John Wayne, The Duke, and they want John Wayne’s name and likeness stripped from the county’s airport.
    The pols cite Wayne’s professed support of white supremacy in a 1971 Playboy interview, in which he espoused derogatory views of African Americans, Native
    Wayne said, “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
    Asked about Native Americans playing subordinate roles in his movies, he replied, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

    The climate all over America is changing against racist and racism and it’s long pass time for Bridgeport to change on their own rather than somebody making a change for them.

  10. What they are asking to do to John Wayne’s will be no different to Tom Hanks for making Saving Private Ryan, as well as America.

    The climate is not changing this Marxist view has been taught in schools for years. What would you say to a man who supported a white man’s racist rant against a black woman DENIGATAING her to a slave-like inferior person? When you know, go look into the mirror that speak. Because you supported such a man and his words. FACT

    Whatever utopia you and your comrade Marxists are dreaming for the Port. It will be built on the history of this land and the removal of its history is to conceal the truth of its own history, to hide its necessary truth.

    Before you can restrict people’s freedom you have to take them away. Like taking PT’s celebration away from the people of the Port who view PT more than how you view him or what he said regarding slaves and the city of the Port he helped built, but less than how you view a City Councilman who subject gate a black woman to an inferior person. I know PT was not Bob Walsh but Wow! support and praise Bob on one hand and can condemn PT from 200 years ago. I thought you wanted to have a discussion on PT. His championing for black rights mean nothing to you. SMH Peace our Comrade Ron I have no time for non-believers and those who only want to see death to America and it freedoms and rights it granted to its citizens. JS.

  11. “Princeton University will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from school”
    Updated Jun 27, 2020; Posted Jun 27, 2020

    By Michael Sol Warren | NJ Advance Media for

    After years of debate, Princeton University announced on Saturday that it would remove President Woodrow Wilson’s name from the university’s revered school of public policy.

    The school, known as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs since taking the former President’s name since 1948, will now be called The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
    The decision was made Princeton’s Board of Trustees at a meeting on Friday, and also includes removing Wilson’s name from one of the university’s six residence colleges, which are each made up of multiple dorms, common areas and a dining hall.

    “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,” the Trustees wrote in a statement.The move was recommended to the Trustees by Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber.“Wilson’s segregationist policies make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school,” Eisgruber wrote in a statement. “When a university names a school of public policy for a political leader, it inevitably suggests that the honoree is a model for students who study at the school.”

  12. NEWS 12 Unmute
    Posted: Jun 30, 2020 5:45 PM EDT

    “Name change suggested for Rutgers due to namesake’s history as a slave owner”

    Reaction to the suggestion of changing Rutgers’ name was mixed among the students.

    “I don’t know if changing the name is the right approach, because it’s erasing history and if you do that history could repeat itself,” said one student.

    “It should be changed if [Henry Rutgers] was a slave owner, in fact,” said another.

    Gov. Phil Murphy was asked about the issue on Monday. He said that he has not been asked that question before and declined to offer his opinion, but added, “It seems to me that we ought to be able to get to a better place. If there are symbols, statues, names that somehow separate us as a society, somehow offend people.”


Leave a Reply