President Donald Trump has called for Wilmington’s Caesar Rodney statue in Wilmington to be moved to a National Garden of American Heroes. Trump proposed the garden earlier this year.
Rodney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a slaveholder, has been the subject of controversy.
The statue has been in storage since Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki ordered the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus and Rodney during a brief period of civil unrest in the city. This followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police in that city.
Rumors and social media posts had indicated the statues were in danger.
In remarks at the First White House Conference on American History that were clearly aimed at opponent Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and removal of statues, Trump said,
“Joe Biden said nothing as to his home state’s history and the fact that it was dismantled and dismembered. And a Founding Father’s statue was removed.Today, America will give this Founding Father, this very brave man, who was so horribly treated, the place of honor he deserves. I am announcing that a statue of Caesar Rodney will be added to the National Garden of American Heroes.”
The Rodney statue was removed intact from its pedestal by a rigging crew and put into storage.
Purzycki, who was recently re-elected to a second term, announced at the time of the removal that the community will have conversations on the status of the statues.
Rodney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who is largely unknown outside the state of Delaware, has been the subject of recent controversy since he was a slaveholder.
The statue was placed on the square in the early 1920s, a period when segregation was enforced in Wilmington and Blacks were banned from places like the nearby Hotel duPont.
The statue came with the construction of Rodney Square, a project designed to upgrade the area near the headquarters of DuPont Co. and the newly constructed library.
Rodney Square has been undergoing a renovation project that includes a fountain.
Trump has made the removal or destruction of statues (mainly Confederate Civil War figures) a centerpiece of a campaign that claims opponents are waging a “cancel culture” campaign to wipe out reminders of the nation’s history.
Most of the statues were erected after the turn of the 20th century, a period when segregation was strengthened by southern and border states like Delaware with the support of presidents like Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat and a strict segregationist.