UVA aims to contextualizing Thomas Jefferson statue in front of Rotunda

The University of Virginia Rotunda (FILE)
The University of Virginia Rotunda (FILE)(WVIR)
Updated: Sep. 17, 2020 at 10:20 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -The University of Virginia calls the decision to contextualize the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the UVA Rotunda part of a plan to tell the complicated life of contradiction its founder lived.

“It’s about reflecting history, to look at the full history and not to shy away from difficult truth," Assistant Vice President of UVA Communications Brian Coy said.

Over the past few years, the university has taken a deep dive into its history: From the memorial to the enslaved to now the contextualization of a Thomas Jefferson statue, it’s part of a larger mission.

“About how this country was founded, how this university was founded, and how our leaders lived these complicated lives of contradiction where they wrote beautiful words about freedom and they owned slaves at the same time and we believe it enriches all of us to tell that story honestly,” Coy said.

The statue stands in front of the UVA Rotunda, and now historians at the university - and potentially at Jefferson’s Monticello - will help to tell that full story.

“We’re not endeavoring to take away any of his contributions to history or to the university, but believe that everyone will be better served by a more fulsome depiction of who he was as a man," Coy said.

While the university is still working through exactly what the contextualization will be, it will not be sugarcoated.

“He contributed to an institution that eviscerated an entire race of people," Coy said.

The University of Virginia will also remove the George Rogers Clark statue on the UVA Corner, and the Whispering Wall will either undergo a re-edication or removal.

“When you look at what’s going on across the country with a reckoning over racial equity, this is a good time to make sure that we’re all operating from the same set of facts with respect to our history and we’re telling the same stories," Coy said.

Coy says there is currently no timeline on when the University of Virginia will implement the changes.

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