NEW YORK — The bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has welcomed visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940 will soon be removed at the request of the museum leadership.
The statue of the former U.S. president and New York governor, which features Roosevelt on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, has been criticized for promoting racism and colonialism, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Officials said Sunday on the museum’s website that they have asked the city of New York, which owns the statue, to move it, stating: “Many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist.”
In response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city supports the museum’s request.
“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 prepared statement.
“It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue,” he added.
According to The New York Times, the decision followed years of objections from activists yet at a time when the killing of George Floyd has sparked an “urgent nationwide conversation about racism.”
Museum President Ellen V. Futter told the Times the museum community has been “profoundly moved” in recent weeks 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 said, adding, “Simply put, the time has come to move it.”
Futter also clarified that the museum’s decision was directed at the “hierarchical composition” of the statue, itself, and bears no reflection on Roosevelt, whom the institution continues to herald as a “pioneering conservationist,” the Times reported.
In fact, Futter confirmed the museum is naming its Hall of Biodiversity for Roosevelt “in recognition of his conservation legacy.”
Theodore Roosevelt IV, 77, a great-grandson of the 26th president and a museum trustee, released the following statement approving the statue’s removal:
“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.”
According to the Times, the president’s father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., was a founding member of the museum. Its charter was signed in his home, and the future president’s childhood excavations were among the museum’s first artifacts.
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