A member of University of Missouri’s College Republican club has been subject to racist attacks after she joined her fellow College Republicans to defend a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
The Jefferson statue, which was a gift to the school by the Jefferson Club in 2000, was considered offensive by grad student Maxwell Little. He started a petition that asked for it to be removed because the statue delivered a “nonverbal code” that Mizzou supports racism and sexism and creates an “emotional and psychological strain.” Naturally, the petition didn’t go anywhere, so Little started #PostYourStateOfMind and gathered students to deface the Jefferson statue with post-it notes that read, “Rapist,” “Racist,” “Sexist” and “Abuser”:
— Maxwell (@MaxHPF) October 7, 2015
Mizzou’s College Republicans decided to host a “Stand With Jefferson” rally in response and started a petition to keep the statue on campus. Their social media chair, Jasmine Wells, who happens to be black, was in a picture with the other College Republicans to support Jefferson. Wells was then called an “Uncle Tom” by somebody with the Twitter handle @Kennedyxpress. Her tweet has been deleted, but Campus Reform caught a screenshot of it. The tweet reads, “And a black girls got the nerve to have been in the picture and sign the petition. #UncleTom.”
Wells did not back down:
— Jasmine Wells (@all_that_jaz17) October 20, 2015
“For a movement that wants to end racism on campus, their response to the event and my participation in it, I felt, was very racist and hurtful,” Wells told Campus Reform.
Little and others involved in trying to remove the Jefferson statue don’t seem to know their history. In his petition, Little claims that Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, a slave, to support his argument. But this is actually a common misconception that people have about Jefferson.
“That would be me. And I can assure you that I am quite proud to be in that picture.”
According to Robert Turner at The Wall Street Journal, DNA testing only proved that somebody in the Jefferson family fathered Hemings’s youngest son, Eston. There were at least seven males of the Jefferson family in Monticello at the time Eston was conceived; it’s more likely Jefferson’s brother, Randolph, was the father of Eston.
“An 1847 oral history titled ‘Memoirs of a Monticello Slave’ noted that when Randolph visited Monticello, he would ‘come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night,” Turner wrote. “Surviving letters establish that Randolph was invited to visit Monticello less than two weeks before the start of Eston’s likely conception window. Randolph had five sons in their teens and 20s who also carried Jefferson DNA.”
The notion that Jefferson and Hemings had an affair started with journalist James Callender, who was a “scandalmonger.”
“Callender had demanded that Jefferson, who was elected president in 1800, appoint him postmaster of Richmond, Va. At one point during the summer of 1802, Callender shouted from in front of the White House, ‘Sir, you know that by lying [in press attacks on President John Adams] I made you President!'” Turner wrote. “When Jefferson refused to make the appointment, Callender promised ‘ten thousand fold vengeanc'” and wrote a series of articles denouncing Jefferson as a French agent and an atheist. When those charges had no effect, he insisted that the president had taken a young slave girl to be his ‘concubine’ while in Paris during the late 1780s.”
Callender’s charges were so absurd that even John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, who were political rivals of Jefferson, knew they weren’t true because “they knew Jefferson’s character and had bitter personal experiences with Callender’s lies.”
Little’s petition mentions that Jefferson only “talked” about ending slavery, but held slaves himself. What Little doesn’t realize is that Jefferson did more than “talk” about ending slaver. The original draft the Declaration of the Independence (which Jefferson himself wrote) included a denunciation of King George III for engaging in slave trade:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of a CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.
Unfortunately, delegates from South Carolina and Georgia did not like this language and the provision was removed so the colonies would approve of the Declaration. Jefferson also proposed legislation to free slaves in Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1774, and his original draft plan of for the new U.S. government in 1784 had slavery and indentured servitude ending by 1800.
That’s not to say that Jefferson was perfect; he did own slaves after all (although he freed some of them). But Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, one of the greatest documents in world history, and was an advocate for the Bill of Rights and presidential term limits. Jefferson is a key reason as to why Little has the ability to freely petition against the statue.
It is disgusting that Wells is being racially attacked for supporting the Jefferson statue.