JACKSON, Miss.—Andrew Jackson still stands outside City Hall in Jackson, Miss., nearly four years after the City Council officials decided to remove the statue dedicated to the slave-owning president who was responsible for the Trail of Tears and is also the capital city’s namesake.

The Jackson City Council voted 5-1 on July 7, 2020, to relocate the statue, which has stood overlooking the Josh Halbert gardens outside City Hall since 1972.

But the council has yet to decide when the relocation will take place and where the statue’s new home will be if it is removed at all, Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said in a statement to the Crirec on Monday.

“The matter is still in committee,” she said. The council has not decided whether to address the issue again; it would take a vote to bring the issue out of committee and back onto the council agenda, she said.

Jackson Enslaved Africans, Forced Indigenous People Off Their Land

Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States and the Democratic Party’s first president in 1829. Before becoming president, he served as a general in the U.S. Army and in the U.S. Congress.

Some considered him “a military hero and man of the people,” which “made him a popular choice for the presidency.”

However, Jackson was also an ardent supporter of the institution of slavery and profited from the ownership of enslaved Africans at his plantation, The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tenn.

In 1804, Jackson placed an ad in the local newspaper asking for the capture and return of a man who had run away from the horrors of his plantation.

“It offered ‘ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred,’” journalist Deneen Brown wrote in an April 11, 2017, report for The Washington Post.

Jackson, Miss., namesake Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States, a military general and member of Congress. He also owned more than 150 enslaved Africans by the time of his death and wrote the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forcing indigenous people from their homelands. Photo courtesy of History.com

“Jackson owned as many as 161 enslaved people, buying and selling them, using their labor to build his fortune and even bringing them to the White House to work for him,” a History.com article states.

“Records show he beat his enslaved workers, including doling out a brutal public whipping to a woman he felt had been ‘putting on airs,’” the report continues. “And when any of them ran away, he pursued them and put them in chains when they were recovered.”

Others were also subjects of Jackson’s ire and relentless desire to acquire land.

Despite a promising 1814 speech where he extended a hand in friendship to Choctaw and Cherokee natives who had helped him win the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Ala., as Jackson ascended politically, he was relentless in his mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

As an Army general in 1818, Jackson led the invasion and occupation of Florida, then a territory of Spain. He cited, in part, the Seminole practice of providing safe-haven to Africans fleeing enslavement as justification for the invasion.

It was the first of three Seminole Wars.

The Blacks and Indians fought side-by-side in a desperate struggle to stop the American advance,” Yale University anthropologist Joseph A. Opala wrote. “(But) they were defeated and driven south into the more remote wilderness of central and southern Florida. General Jackson (later President) referred to this First Seminole War as an ‘Indian and Negro War.’”

“Andrew Jackson, from Tennessee, was a forceful proponent of Indian removal,” a PBS article says. Eager for land that could be used to grow more cotton and further build his wealth and the wealth of other white colonizers, he penned the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

a photo of a statue of Andrew Jackson in front of city hall
Andrew Jackson justified invading Florida partly by pointing to the Seminole practice of providing safe harbor to Africans fleeing slavery. Photo by Imani Khayyam

In the years that followed, he oversaw the forced expulsion of people of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations from their ancestral lands to reservations, a journey commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears. Thousands of people died in the forced migration.

His presidency is perhaps best remembered for his cruelty to Native Americans … Jackson wanted to clear newly acquired territories of the Native Americans who lived there so that white settlers could claim the land—and its natural resources—as their own,” journalist Erin Blakemore wrote.

“During his presidency, Jackson signed into law nearly 70 removal treaties with Native Americans, who were pressured into trading their land for confined reservations in the west,” the article continues. “Many such treaties were signed by minority groups within larger Native American bands and tribes that objected to the agreements; the government enforced them anyway, turning those who resisted removal into trespassers on land they had owned for centuries,” Blakemore wrote.

“Those who tried to stay were forced to leave by the U.S. military.”

One of those treaties was the 1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand.

Jackson—along with Gen. Thomas Hinds, the soldier and slaveholder for which Mississippi’s Hinds County is named—negotiated a land and citizenship agreement with the Choctaw.

However, in a subsequent 1830 treaty, Jackson forced the Choctaw to give up the entirety of the land for acreage in the Indian Territory, what is now known as Oklahoma. It was the first of such treaties enforced under the Indian Removal Act.

‘Name Someone Through History Who Is Perfect’

In a June 17, 2024, op-ed in the Magnolia Tribune, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White voiced opposition to the City of Jackson’s potential removal of Andrew Jackson’s statue.

“This is nuts,” White wrote. “The city is named Jackson, after all. If Jackson is such a reprehensible figure, why stop with the statue? Why not rename the city? Why not rename Washington, DC, for that matter? And then tear down the Washington Monument? Where does the cultural destruction end?”

White issued a challenge to those who cite the former president’s history as reason to have the statue removed: “please name someone through history who is perfect.” He then pointed to Jesus Christ as the only “man who was without blemish” as part of his defense of Jackson’s history of enslaving people and ethnic cleansing.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White wrote an op-ed in the Magnolia Tribune on June 17, 2024, expressing opposition to any action to remove the Andrew Jackson statue standing outside City Hall in Jackson, Miss. “For those who will say Jackson did bad things, please name someone through history who is perfect. I know of only one man who was without blemish, and he lived 2,000 years ago. Even Civil Rights heroes had their flaws, because we are all human,” White wrote. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Although White insinuated that there is a liberal agenda to “take Jackson’s statue out to the dumpster,” since the initial 2020 vote to remove the statue, council members and city leaders have discussed a variety of relocation sites that they thought could be more appropriate.

At one point, city leaders consulted with staff at Jackson’s former plantation home, which is now a museum, to relocate the statue there. Others floated the idea of relocating it to the Smith Robertson Museum in Jackson.

‘It’s A History We Don’t Appreciate’

As communities around the world dealt with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minn., reignited the debate over the appropriateness of many statues and memorials in the United States.

That year, officials in locations around the country removed, or locals toppled, nearly 100 statues and monuments, the majority of which were Confederate-era memorials, NPR reported in 2021.

Following the Jackson City Council’s 5-1 vote to relocate Andrew Jackson’s statue, City Councilman Aaron Banks said on July 8, 2020, that the controversial history of the late president was justification enough for removing the statue.

“Although we’ll never get rid of the name of Jackson, Mississippi, it’s named after him and that’s fine. However, his statue means so much more than just history—it’s a history that the majority of the people in this city look at and we don’t appreciate,” Banks told WJTV at the time.

A man in a dark suit with periwinkle tie talking at a mic and pointing to the left
“Although we’ll never get rid of the name of Jackson, Mississippi, it’s named after him and that’s fine. However, his statue means so much more than just history, it’s a history that the majority of the people in this city look at and we don’t appreciate,” Ward 6 City Councilman Aaron Banks told WJTV in 2020. File photo by Imani Khayyam / Courtesy Jackson Free Press

Ward 1 City Councilman Ashby Foote was the sole councilperson in 2020 to vote against relocating the statue. He said in an interview at the time that “the whole idea of tearing down historical statues and monuments is generally a bad idea. We need to understand our history, not tear it down.

Foote further explained his reasoning in a June 18, 2024, interview with the Crirec.

“I don’t argue with the fact that Andrew Jackson was a very flawed man, but he was also a historical figure,” Foote said. “Just to take things down to erase history, I think that’s a mistake.”

Foote said that after the council voted four years ago to relocate the statue, they hit a couple hurdles. The cost to remove and relocate the statue would have been upward of $1 million, he said.

Foote said he is focused on tackling issues that erode the quality of life of Jacksonians and that he doesn’t see the statue as a major issue for the people of Jackson.

However, if Jackson’s statue were to come down, Foote said he is open to the City erecting a new statue in its place to honor another historical figure.

During the July 7, 2020, city council meeting, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said he was in favor of erecting a statue of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson’s place.

Roger Amos contributed to this story.

Capital City reporter Shaunicy Muhammad has an enduring interest in social-justice issues, class inequality, Africana studies and cultural storytelling.

Her educational background includes a journalism degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. Her time as an undergraduate student culminated with the production of the senior research project “Black Unrest, Riots and How Newspapers Frame the Narrative of African American Social Protest,” which analyzed patterns in the narratives reporters used when explaining the social unrest and uprisings after the deaths of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

She is reporting on the capital city with a year-long focus on causes, effects and solutions for systemic inequities in South Jackson, supported by a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Email her at [email protected].

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