EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — A group of Edwardsville citizens is calling for leaders to remove a statue of the town's namesake and rename the plaza where it resides.
A Facebook group titled 'Remove the Ninian Edwards Statue and Rename Ninian Edwards Plaza' was started on June 17 and has more than 600 members.
Edwards, who died in 1833, was the only governor of the Illinois Territory and later served as a state senator before becoming third Governor of Illinois. His term as governor ran from 1826-1830. Ninian owned slaves and also sent Illinois militia to battle Native Americans in the War of 1812 and the Winnebago War.
Edwards' statue now stands at the intersection of St. Louis Street and W. Vandalia Streets in Edwardsville, down the street from where Edwards built a home in 1819-1820, according to the city of Edwardsville.
An action statement posted to the group detailed its demands. It calls for the statue to be removed and placed in a museum or a less public city space, along with plaques that describe the harm Edwards did to enslaved people and Native Americans.
"Even by the standards of his time (early 1800s), Ninian Edwards was a racist and immoral man," the statement said. "We know that it was not the intention of the City to honor Edwards’ harmful actions when they raised his statue and named the plaza after him. Nevertheless, such a public display of Edwards’ statue and name creates the impression of approval."
The group said it is not interested in renaming the city.
"We want to be very clear on this—we are not advocating renaming the city. The reason is simple: Edwardsville is more than Ninian Edwards," the action statement said. "Edwardsville means a great many things to a great many people besides our namesake. In fact, probably the only time most people in Edwardsville think of Ninian Edwards is in Ninian Edwards Plaza. Our desire is to change this public honoring, not to change the city’s name."
Edwards County in southeastern Illinois is also named after Edwards.