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Florida State Students Host Heated Debate on Whether to Remove Statue of Slave-Owning Founder

On Oct. 19, Florida State University students voted to keep a controversial statue and student hall bearing the name of school founder Francis Eppes.

With 71 percent of voters deciding, the monuments celebrating the controversial slave-owning founder will remain as-is. In 1856, Eppes donated land in Tallahassee to build the first of two state-supported seminaries. That seminary would go on to became Florida State University.

His land and wealth came from his extensive cotton plantation that was fueled by the labor of enslaved Black people. Eppes was a career politician, Christian and most notably a relative of former President Thomas Jefferson.

According to WCTV, Students for a Democratic Society believe the statue and hall are a painful reminder of the country’s dark history of slavery. They want Eppes gone from the school out of respect for Black students.

However, others have stated that the statue and Eppes Hall is a non-issue. For instance, student Taylor Ney implies that the founder’s contribution overshadows the fact that he profited from slavery.

“While we deplore slavery, we deplore the institution of it. He created the seminary west of the Suwannee and is really the reason we have a Florida State University in Tallahassee.”

But Students for a Democratic Society and those fighting to remove Eppes’ statue say they will continue the fight.

“The fact that we lost this time doesn’t mean that the same referendum won’t happen in the future. Because it definitely will,” Kevin Jean-Pierre says.

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