KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Elected officials in Missouri's Jackson County are adding to plaques to statues of the Kansas City area county's namesake noting that the nation's seventh president was a slave owner and responsible for the ethnic cleansing in what has become known as the Trail of Tears.
KMBC-TV reports that the plaques that will be added to statues of Andrew Jackson outside courthouses in downtown Kansas City and in nearby Independence will note that "Almost two centuries later, we hold a broader, more inclusive view of our nation."
Jackson began his term as president in 1829, almost three years after the Missouri State Legislature named the county after him because he was a hero of the War of 1812.
"This statue of Jackson reminds us we are on a path that in the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr., bending toward justice. In turn, we must acknowledge the past injustices to help us create greater nation built upon humane policies to light our way and the way of humanity everywhere.
"You may be entering this revered building today in a pursuit of truth or justice. Your own history is still being written."
Jackson was an advocate for Indian removal from tribal homelands. During his second message to Congress, in December 1830, he spoke of the “philanthropy” of Indian removal. “True philanthropy,” he said, reconciles the mind “to the extinction of one generation to make room for another.” Tribes in the Southeast already “were annihilated, or have melted away, to make room for the whites,” he said, yet “philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers.
“The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual states and to Indians themselves,” Jackson told Congress. He promised the act would extend to Indians the freedom to “pursue happiness in their own way” and, gradually, “to ease off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized and Christian community.”
During the fall and winter of 1838, the Cherokee people were forced along the Trail of Tears; some 4,000 died of cold, hunger and disease on the way. Martin Van Buren, who took office in 1837, defended the removal of the Cherokee in his second message to Congress in December 1838 claiming “that a mixed occupancy of the same territory by the white and red man is incompatible with the safety or happiness of either.” He also told Congress the Cherokee had “emigrated without any apparent reluctance.”
Indian Country Today contributed to this report.