CINCINNATI — City Council member Chris Seelbach wants experts to explore whether a statue of President Willian Henry Harrison in Piatt Park should remain standing. The first president from the state of Ohio was a slave owner, and if Seelbach has his way, the statue could be a thing of the past.
“Let’s have a conversation about who should be included in this and who shouldn’t be,” he said.
As symbols of the country’s complex past are called into question, Seelbach said it’s time for a change
"I'm submitting a motion to create a committee of historians, of regular folks to look at all of this - the William Henry Harrison statue, other statues, the names of parks, even the name of Pendleton, the neighborhood," Seelbach said.
Harrison, the ninth president of the United States who served for just a month before dying in office, was a slave owner.
"I hope that we remove it,” Seelbach said. “Whether that's to a museum or somewhere else where you can provide a much larger context."
In North Bend, Ohio, where President Harrison is buried, there lies a different perspective.
"Everybody agrees slavery was wrong and he did have slaves and that was wrong.” Judge Robert Ruehlman said. “Nobody agrees with that, but it's a slippery slope."
Ruehlman is a Harrison history buff who helps lead the local celebration of the president’s birthday each year and care for his tomb.
“He was a real hero, a real good general and fought for this country,” Ruehlman said. “I believe he should have a statue in his honor. I believe if you were president, you deserve to have a statue and a memorial to you."
Seelbach expects the council to vote on the motion sometime in August.
"A hundred years from now, do I think that there's going to still be neighborhoods and parks named after slave owners? I doubt it,” Seelbach said. “If not now, when?"