Thomas Jefferson statue at UVA vandalized on founding father's birthday

Published: Apr. 13, 2018 at 12:53 PM EDT
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The night before the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, a statue of him on the University of Virginia lawn was vandalized.

A small crowd gathered around the statue at about 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Students said the words "racist and rapist" had spray painted on the base of the statue overnight Thursday.

Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence who founded UVA and has had a lasting legacy on the City of Charlottesville, enslaved over 600 people throughout this life and is believed, based on historical DNA analysis, to have fathered at least six children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves.

The founding father publicly opposed the institution of slavery in the United States, calling it a "hideous blot," and he tried to weaken the slave trade in Virginia by discouraging the cultivation of crops heavily dependent on slave labor, like tobacco. But,

, his belief in the need to end slavery stemmed from the idea that white people and black people were two “separate nations” who could not live peacefully together. He labeled slaves “as incapable as children" and heavily advocated, in the case of abolition, that freed slaves be deported to Africa or the West Indies.

Crews worked to wash off the spray paint Friday morning and hung a piece of plastic over the vandalized area afterward.