A $20,000 acrylic case now protects Thomas Jefferson's original headstone on the University of Missouri campus, a response to vandalism to a Jefferson statue that is also on campus and graffiti written on the sidewalk during the summer making reference to Sally Hemings, a slave who gave birth to children fathered by the third president. The clear case was installed Saturday over the granite obelisk that was originally erected at Monticello in Virginia in 1833. It was replaced in 1883 and given to the University of Missouri. It's unclear why, though it was the first state university established in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, which was made when Jefferson was president, and was established with the University of Virginia as a model. Jefferson’s original tombstone "was entrusted to the university and we have a responsibility to [ensure] that it is preserved appropriately," spokesman Christian Basi said.
Chancellor Mun Choi this summer refused to remove the Jefferson statue, prompting a student, Roman Leaphart, to begin a petition drive seeking removal of the monument to “a racist slave owner.” Choi said at the time that the university would move to put Jefferson's complex history into context. A task force that includes students, faculty, and others is working on that project toward a goal of making recommendations by the spring, Basi said. There are two relics associated with the grave marker, reports the AP. The obelisk holds a replica of a marble plaque with the inscription Jefferson wrote for his grave: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson; Author of the Declaration of American Independence; of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom; Father of the University of Virginia.”
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