The statue of a seated Thomas Jefferson located on the Lawn was painted with the phrase “Racist + Rapist” early Friday morning. The defacement comes on Founder’s Day, the anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday celebrated at the University and Monticello.
The defacement likely refers to Jefferson’s ownership and use of slaves for the construction of the University and work on his plantation, and Jefferson’s alleged rape of Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson who he is believed to have had children with.
“The University is disappointed that individuals vandalized the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn on the day that we honor his contributions to our University and to our democracy,” University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said in a statement. “The University recognizes the complexities of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy and continues to explore them fully and honestly. UVA welcomes open and civil discourse on such important issues. However, acts of vandalism do not contribute to meaningful discussion.”
The statement notes the paint is being removed from the statue by a crew from the University’s facilities management department. The University Police Department is investigating the incident.
UPD did not immediately respond for comment Friday morning.
This is a developing story.