FSU installs controversial Eppes statue in new spot

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By: WCTV Eyewitness News
May 13, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – After 10 months out of sight, the controversial statue of founder Francis Eppes is now in a new location on the Florida State University campus.

A university spokesman says the Eppes statue was reinstalled Sunday morning by a university grounds crew.

It was removed from its previous location near the Westcott Fountain last July. The statue is now located on Mina Jo Powell Green.

“FSU President John Thrasher considered many campus locations and determined this location to be the most appropriate as it is historically relevant with Eppes’ contributions and adjacent to the Eppes Building,” said university spokesman Dennis Schnittker.

The statue has a new marker detailing Eppes’ life, his role founding FSU and his history as a slave owner.

An Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions recommended moving the statue. President Thrasher convened the panel in October 2017. It’s made up of university students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni.

The panel's creation came after Thrasher’s condemnation of violent acts by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia and a nationwide debate over confederate names, markers, statues and monuments.

“Thrasher agreed with the panel that the statue’s original campus location on Westcott Plaza, the historic and symbolic entrance to the university, gave Eppes an inappropriate level of prominence that overstated Eppes’ role in the establishment of Florida State University. Eppes was a founder, but not the sole founder,” said Schnittker.

"The new site is both geographically and historically consistent with Eppes’ contributions to the founding of Florida State University. It is also adjacent to both the Eppes Building and the university’s statue of George Edgar, who served as the first president of the Seminary West of the Suwannee River,” Thrasher said in a statement.

The university says the timing of the statue’s return was made to minimize disruption to campus.

Below is the new language that accompanies the statue, as provided by the university:

Francis W. Eppes
1801-1881

The origin of this historic campus can be attributed to passionate and determined community leaders who, in 1851, began lobbying the Florida State Assembly to create an institution of higher education in the capital city.

One of the most influential was Francis W. Eppes, grandson of Thomas Jefferson and four-time intendant of Tallahassee. After five years of persuasive petitioning by the City Council, state legislators approved Tallahassee as the location for the Seminary West of the Suwannee.

Eppes’ contributions to the Seminary were significant in its early years. Both his chairmanship and leadership on the Board of Education, which governed the Seminary, played a crucial role in the young school surviving a turbulent period, including the Civil War.

While recognized as a strong advocate for education and dedicated public servant, Eppes also is noted for a record tainted by slavery. As a prominent owner of several plantations, he owned numerous slaves, using their labor in his fields and family homes.

As it openly acknowledges this history, Florida State University today celebrates and embraces a richly diverse and inclusive campus community.



 
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