JACKSON, Mich. — Andrew Jackson and his horse won’t last much longer on Jackson’s official seal.
“It is 2021 and as a city we can make a decision as to how we can best represent our city," Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick said. "A lot of things happen in a city in 200 years and a lot of things happened since we last elected the seal 84 years ago, so it’s up to us in 2021 to determine what are the values of our city and how should we reflect that in our imagery."
When the city was founded in 1829, officials named it Jacksonopolis after Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time. It later became Jacksonburg and, finally, Jackson. The image on the seal, which has been in place since 1937, is based on an Andrew Jackson statue in Washington, D.C.
“A lot of people are wondering why replace the representation of Andrew Jackson. We’re aware that as we have discussions about racial equity and how we best represent historical figures there’s a lot of discussions about how we should be portraying them in public spaces,” Dimick said.
Jackson owned slaves and he signed the Indian Removal Act, which forced more than 46,000 Native Americans off of their ancestral lands. City officials say it’s time to leave America’s seventh president in the past and develop something more modern.
“We know that he is someone who is a slaveholder. We know that he is someone who was instrumental in the removal of Native Americans so we want something that is more specific to the city of Jackson, Michigan, and does a better job of representing our entire community,” Dimick said.
City Council voted unanimously in July 2020 to have the Public Arts Commission start the process of redesigning the seal. They have now put out a request for proposals and are working with a design company to make it happen.
“The city of Jackson, Michigan does not have any direct connection to Andrew Jackson. We don’t have any connection to that statue it is not like someone from Jackson created it. We want something that’s more specific to Jackson. We’re a community that is very proud of our rich history. We’re very proud of our forward momentum so we feel like someone in the community can come up with a better design than what is currently on there,” Dimick said.
Maurice Imhoff from the Jackson Historical Society, said in a statement that he doesn't object to changing the seal.
"I believe we can learn from history and change for the better," he said. "We should not be stubborn and say, 'It's history, don't change it.' That is a middle school-like mindset."
Andrew Jackson, he said, "had nothing to do with our city, why should he represent it?...I do not think this is an attempt to erase our history. It's a step to embrace who we are and where we came from, which simply isn't Andrew Jackson."
There are specifications for the new seal. It has to be circular, say "City of Jackson" and "1829" on the seal. The Public Arts Commission wants something modern that reflects “the diversity and inclusiveness” of the community according to Dimick.
“After that, it’s really up to the creative people in our community to come up with something," he said.
The deadline to submit proposals is Thursday, July 15. The new official seal could debut as early as September.