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Voters emphatically reject removal of Andrew Jackson statues

By The Examiner staff

Jackson County voters have decided to leave two statues of Andrew Jackson where they are.

The statue of Andrew Jackson on the west side of the Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square has stood since the late 1940s.

With some absentee votes still being counted late Tuesday, the ballot measure was losing with 166,743 no votes (65.1 percent) to 89,241 yes votes. Kansas City voters were in favor of it by a modest margin, but Eastern Jackson County voters said no by a margin of almost three to one.

The statues have been contentious for some time. Late in 2019, county legislators approved a plan by County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to place explanatory signs near the two statues, noting President Jackson’s complex and often troubling history. He enslaved people and in some instances was especially cruel toward slaves even by the standards of his day. As president, he carried out the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands in the Southeast. In what came to be known as the Trail of Tears, thousands died.

Baker’s point has been that for many Jackson County residents who are asked to come to the courthouse in the service of their community as jurors or trial witnesses, the statues can be painful reminders of racial injustice.

The signs Baker advocated and legislators approved have not gone up, but County Executive Frank White Jr. and some legislators this year came out in favor of simply removing the statues from such a public place of honor and putting them in a museum setting with a fuller historical context. The County Legislature decided instead to put the issue on the ballot.

After Tuesday’s vote, White’s office released a statement saying the statues “are not an appropriate representation of who we are and who we strive to be as a community – a community that is welcoming, diverse and open-minded.”

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for our democratic process, and while I may not always agree with the outcome, I believe there is something we can learn from every election,” White’s statement said. “I look forward to engaging in more opportunities to eliminate racism and discrimination in Jackson County as we continue the fight for equal rights and justice for those we serve.”