The nine–foot statue of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Philip Schuyler has been removed from its long–standing pedestal outside Albany‘s city hall. The statue was removed after a lengthy wait due to the engineering process, as announced earlier in the summer of 2020 in response to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent social unrest.
The move cost Albany an estimated $40,000 and reportedly took a few hours to achieve a safe removal, the pedestal and plaque were also dismantled in the process.
Schuyler, a major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, was an early settler in Albany and one of the largest slave owners in the city‘s history. This prompted Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat, in June of 2020 to order the General‘s statue removed to no longer glorify the man’s morally ambiguous history.
Community leaders such as Mary Liz Stewart, the co–founder of the Underground Railroad Education Center, were happy they could finally see the statue taken down.
“I was glad action had been taken, I know it was pre–COVID when the issue of what to do — as we say ‘what to do with Phil’ — actually started to percolate in the community. It was an outgrowth of what was going on in other cities around the country.”
Adding her voice to the cause was Dr. Alice Green from the Center for Law and Justice who believes the statue is a continuing reminder of the painful and unjust history of slavery.
“The statue is a continuing reminder that we were enslaved. It‘s painful to have that reminder every time I go downtown or drive past it.”
Despite many in the community and the Mayor supporting the removal of the statue, not everyone in Albany and beyond is in agreement. Jeff Perlee, a county legislator, believes there’s a fine line between making up for past wrongs and erasing history.
“This isn‘t to say Schuyler was a perfect historical figure, he owned slaves, as was the unfortunate reality of the time for many — including President Washington. It was unquestionably wrong. But nobody is calling for Washington Avenue or Washington Park in Albany to be renamed.”
The statue removal is unsurprisingly highly controversial, however, for now, Schuyler‘s statue is temporarily housed inside an undisclosed storage facility as we await the city council‘s decision on a permanent future home.
Either way, actions have finally been taken against one of Albany’s largest slave owners in a move that many in the city’s community feel is long overdue.