Dustin Luca, Salem (Mass.) News, October 24, 2019
Andrew Jackson’s days in the City Council chambers are possibly numbered.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll filed a proposal this week to relocate a portrait of Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, from a wall in the council chambers to an attached anteroom. To replace it, the city wants to commission a Native American artist for a new portrait of a leader of the Naumkeag tribe that called the region home before Salem was settled in 1626.
Driscoll said she views this as “an exchange to an extent,” taking a portrait of a white man, already surrounded by art depicting other white men — and in this case someone who has “somewhat of a tortured history” of abuses of Native Americans — and replacing it with a portrait of a Native American.
The proposal, led in part and coordinated by Pioneer Village director Elizabeth Peterson, calls for the Jackson painting to be relocated to the anteroom and, “in its place, a frame and sign be placed until such time as the commissioned portrait of a representative of the Naumkeag people can be completed and hung in said location.”
Salem is one of the oldest incorporated communities in the United States. In 1626, a group of settlers tied to the failed Cape Anne fishing settlement arrived in what would become Salem. It had been home to an already suffering and dwindling native population known as the Naumkeag. It’s from that tribe that the Naumkeag River – today’s North River – and the settlement of Naumkeag got their names.
In 1629, the settlement was more officially established and called Salem. Salem would later become a city, and the City Hall that exists today would be built in 1836 — the second to final year of Jackson’s presidency.
In an email to city councilors and Driscoll, local attorney John Carr described the proposed order as “Mayor Driscoll’s latest foray in political correctness.”
“Maybe we should expunge the memory of every founding father who was also a slave owner, including Washington and Jefferson, change the name of the nation’s capital, wipe their portraits off our coinage and currency, and redress every other historical wrong that violates our current 21st century sensibilities,” Carr wrote. “And once we have legitimized such a PC bandwagon, let’s even include the first settlers of Salem and our predecessors every generation since then, who at one time or another may have been mean to one group or another.”