The statue of Thomas Jefferson was a gift from University of Virginia in 1992. Jefferson was a student at the university from 1760-1762 and his drawings of the Wren building aided the university in its rebuilding after one of its several fires. Jefferson called for the emancipation of slaves in Notes of the State of Virginia (1781) and encouraged skepticism about the way slavery was taught at William & Mary during the antebellum era.

Jefferson was also a slave holder – a fact that William & Mary students do not want to be forgotten. During the fall of 2015, students covered this statue in sticky notes, labelling Jefferson a 'racist', 'rapist', 'slave owner', and 'hypocrite'. The protest sparked debates amongst the campus about the way in which the Founding Fathers are portrayed in modern society.