Historical Society Says Asbury Park Should Keep Segregationist Founder’s Statue
ASBURY PARK — An attempt to remove a statue of one of this city's founder has been met with opposition by the local historical group.
The removal of the statue of James Bradley is being championed by the group Help Not Handcuffs.
“The effort is to not have monuments to racism,” Randy Thompson, the group's CEO has said. Thompson said he sees the statue in Sunset Park as a symbol for a much larger problem the city is facing today. He said his group believes the issues the city faces in terms of drugs and crime can be traced back to the way Bradley established a white section and a black section.
The Asbury Park Historical Society, however, says it is in "complete opposition" to the statue's removal.
"Although Bradley was a visionary in many ways, there can be no doubt that our city's founder, like so many people of his day (he was born in 1830), was shortsighted and wrong in his advocacy of segregation. Mr. Bradley's planning of a great little city will never erase the hurtful positions he espoused or the words he spoke."
The statue was erected in the city's Bradley Park in front of Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater in 1921 shortly after his death.
Help Not Handcuffs did not return a message seeking comment about the Historical Society's statement.
South Jersey's Richard Stockton University, named after the state's signer of the Declaration of Independence, temporarily removed his bust from the library because he was a slave owner. It will be included in a new exhibit in the library about Stockton.
Across the country, calls for the removal of Confederate statues and monuments has increased after racially charged protests in Charlottesville, West Virginia, in August over the removal of a statue of Confederate Army leader Robert E. Lee. A woman died after a supporter of the statue rammed his car into a group of demonstrators. Two officers also died in a helicopter accident.
FULL STATEMENT FROM THE ASBURY PARK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Recently, there has been discussion in Asbury Park about the value of retaining the 97-year-old statue of our city's founder, James A. Bradley, in the park at the eastern end of Sunset Park. That six-block-long glorious stretch of green was donated to the people of Asbury Park by Mr. Bradley himself. In recognition of that, our trustees would like to reiterate the words found in our mission statement:
The mission of the Asbury Park Historical Society is to advance the understanding, appreciation, preservation and restoration of anything of historical value to the City of Asbury Park, New Jersey...
"Although he was a visionary in many ways, there can be no doubt that our city's Founder, like so many people of his day (he was born in 1830), was shortsighted and wrong in his advocacy of segregation. Mr. Bradley's planning of a great little city will never erase the hurtful positions he espoused or the words he spoke. Like all of us, he too had feet of clay. Yet he never waged a traitorous war against the United States of America, never condoned slavery, or “owned” another human being.
"We should never turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of Mr. Bradley or any other historical figure, but openly acknowledge them. The trustees of the Asbury Park Historical Society wish to go on record in complete opposition to the removal of the statue of the flawed but brilliant Founder of Asbury Park.