The American Museum of Natural History will remove its statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the entrance after years of objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.
The bronze statue depicts Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American man and an African man standing next to the horse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a written statement,
“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.
The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
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.
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.”
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.
After news of the removal went public, Trump (of course) criticized the decision, tweeting:
“Ridiculous, don’t do it!”
It was also met with alarm by some social media users, who were quick to point out that the statue was brought to life by Robin Williams in Night at the Museum. One wrote:
“Seriously be best thing that came from Teddy Roosevelt was Robin Williams performance in night at the museum.”
“Better remove ‘Night at the Museum’ from streaming now too, then. My goodness me. We are in big trouble.”
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.”
This video explains the significance of the two figures flanking the statue and why they are prolematic in this context.
Teddy Roosevelt & the Equestrian Statue
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States and his face is on Mount Rushmore with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.
The statue in question outside the American Museum of Natural History was erected in 1939. Roosevelt had cultivated a “cowboy” image and that of a brave, macho warrior during his presidency.
Through this context we see that Roosevelt is shown as the bold colonialist explorer, guided through the wilderness by one figure representing Native America and the other, Africa.
Museum president Ellen Futter calls this a
Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president and museum trustee, says,
“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.
The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”
Ridiculous, don’t do it! https://t.co/VYez8p9AJh— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020