The American Museum of Natural History will remove a prominent statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance after years of objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.
The bronze statue that has stood at the museum’s Central Park West entrance since 1940 depicts Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American man and an African man standing next to the horse.
‘The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,’ de Blasio said in a written statement.
‘The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.’
The American Museum of Natural History in New York is removing a statue of Theodore Roosevelt, flanked by a Native American man and African American man
The statue will come down after the museum’s proposal to remove it was approved by the city
The museum’s president, Ellen Futter, told the New York Times that the museum’s ‘community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd.’
Last year the museum created an exhibition to explain its decision to keep the statue that the public has ‘long found disturbing’, despite what it called ‘Roosevelt’s troubling views on race’
‘We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism,’ Futter told the Times. ‘Simply put, the time has come to move it.’
Officials said it hasn’t been determined when the Roosevelt statue will be removed and where it will go.
The planned removal comes after statues around the country have been toppled by protesters or removed by city officials after complaints the racism of the era is glorified.
Recently police have been seen guarding the statue created by James Earle Fraser. But it isn’t the first time people have objected to it. In 2017 they decided it should stay after a city review ended with a 50/50 split decision.
The same year protesters splashed red liquid on the statue’s base to represent blood and published a statement calling for its removal as an emblem of ‘patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.’
The museum even created an exhibition to explain its decision to keep the statue that the public has ‘long found disturbing’, despite what it called ‘Roosevelt’s troubling views on race’.
A police car stands by guarded barricades near the statue on June 16. The killing of George Floyd by cops in Minneapolis has brought a heightened awareness to racial justice and many have long called for taking down statues of people who helped perpetuate racial injustice
The museum is naming its Hall of Biodiversity for Roosevelt ‘in recognition of his conservation legacy’. Several other areas inside the museum are named after Roosevelt
In the exhibition last year, the museum acknowledged its ‘imperfect history’.
Futter said the museum objects to the statue but not to Roosevelt, a pioneering conservationist whose father was a founding member of the institution and who served as New York’s governor before becoming the 26th president.
The museum is home to a rotunda and park named after Roosevelt. It also contains his memorial hall.
She said the museum is now naming its Hall of Biodiversity for Roosevelt ‘in recognition of his conservation legacy.’
Futter added in her statement: ‘We believe that moving the statue can be a symbol of progress in our commitment to build and sustain an inclusive and equitable society. Our view has been evolving. This moment crystallized our thinking and galvanized us to action.’
‘The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,’ Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president, said in a statement to the Times.
‘The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.’
Theodore Roosevelt IV is a trustee of the museum.
Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president, said: ‘The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward’