The National Park Service, overseen by Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a former member of Congress from New Mexico, and National Park Service Director Charles Sams III, has announced plans to remove the statue of William Penn from a park in Philadelphia. This park, established in 1982 to mark the 300th anniversary of Penn’s founding of Pennsylvania, stands on the site of his original home.
The park, near the Delaware River at Sansom and Second Streets, will undergo rehabilitation, including an expanded interpretation of Native American history in Philadelphia. This plan involves consultations with representatives from various indigenous nations.
The statue of Penn and a model of his original home are set to be removed as part of these changes. The Park Service indicates a future exhibit might mention Penn’s role in founding Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, but this is currently unfunded, per the Post Millennial.
The Park Service manages significant historical sites in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and other important landmarks. The Biden administration has emphasized equity in its policies, a principle echoed in these changes.
The redesign of the park will be led by Venturi & Scott Brown Associates, the same firm that designed the original park. The park was initially named after Penn’s ship, Welcome, and celebrated his life and the establishment of Pennsylvania, known for its principles of religious and civil freedoms.
Penn, a Quaker and advocate for religious freedom, also played a role in the early abolitionist movement. However, his legacy has been scrutinized, particularly following the George Floyd protests, due to his history as a slave owner. This scrutiny aligns with a broader trend of re-evaluating historical figures’ legacies in public spaces.
In 2021, a bill proposed in the US House sought to remove statues of individuals who served the Confederate States of America from the Capitol, reflecting ongoing debates over how to represent historical figures in public spaces.
The public can provide feedback on this proposal through the National Park Service’s planning website found here: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/