CANTON, Ohio — Amid protests from groups that include Native Americans, a city in northern California has decided to remove a statue of 25th President William McKinley.
McKinley served with distinction in the Union Army in the Civil War and was the last Civil War veteran elected President.
During his first term, he led the U.S. to victory in the Spanish American War. McKinley was re-elected in 1900, but his second term ended in tragedy.
“He was one of four Presidents that was assassinated, so he literally gave his life for his country, and I think that`s important to remember,” said Kim Kinney, Executive Director of the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton.
Five years after he was assassinated, a statue of William McKinley was placed on a public square in Arcata, California.
Over the decades, opposition to President McKinley`s policies, especially from Native Americans whose ancestors were forced from their tribal lands, prompted some to call for the removal of the statue.
After years of controversy, the Arcata City Council voted in 2018 to remove the statue.
In Canton, those who have studied McKinley, acknowledge he was a complex “man of his times.”
“There`s multiple things that happen in any one person`s life and certainly not all of his policies we would agree with today but when you think of them in the 19th century context, that was sort of what was happening in our country,” said Kenney.
The city of Canton, with funding from private foundations, has now reached an agreement with the city of Arcata to purchase the controversial statue for $15,000.
Canton Mayor Tom Bernabei told Fox 8, “William McKinley has a very close connection to Canton`s history and Canton has a very close connection to his history and his family`s history and we still have descendants of William McKinley living here in Canton.”
Canton city officials are now considering a number of sites as the new home for the McKinley statue, including the Stark County Courthouse, where William McKinley argued cases while serving as the county prosecutor.
Historians say as a result of the modern controversies over statues across the country, there is now a reassessment of historical figures like William McKinley through a contemporary lens.
“It’s something we can and should re-examine but I don`t think that it can take away the contributions that he did make to his country,” said Kenney. “I think it brings him back down a little bit so that we think of him as a person and not just this leader who was assassinated and is kind of larger than life, he`s actually like you and me.”
Mayor Bernabei said private funds will be used to move the statue to Stark County, and to restore the monument. A committee will then decide the best place to display the statue.