As the list of statues featuring historical figures taken down to appease the offended skyrockets, it seems Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, will soon join the list of cancelled monuments.
The statue of Teddy Roosevelt mounted on his trusted horse accompanied by a Native American and an African American on both sides has been an iconic part of NYC’s Museum of Natural History since 1940, but soon the Rough Rider’s statue will be coming down.
Roosevelt’s image is so ingrained in the museum’s image that he (played by Robin Williams) was featured as main protagonist in the 2006 comedy Night at the Museum where exhibits came to life at night. Roosevelt’s father co-founded the museum over 100 years ago.
According to the New York Times, “the decision, proposed by the museum and agreed to by New York City, which owns the building and property, came after years of objections from activists and at a time when the killing of George Floyd has initiated an urgent nationwide conversation about racism.”
They add the statue symbolizes “a painful legacy of colonial expansion and racial discrimination” to many activists.
Museum president Ellen Futter said in an interview, “over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd.” She added, “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 clarified their issue was focused on the statue’s composition, specifically the “hierarchical composition,” which features Roosevelt situated at a higher literal level than the two minority men also depicted. Though relative height in a statue does not necessarily represent superiority over the class of people depicted, and it is not evident that was the intended effect.
NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio chimed in as well, saying “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 and the land it sits on is owned by the city government.
Several rooms and buildings are dedicated to Roosevelt in the museum, and the museum plans to continue honoring the former president as a devote conservationist.
Some historians are citing Roosevelt’s late in life racist remarks and role in American colonialism as justification for removing the statue, saying those views overshadow the president’s many accomplishments.
“The composition of the equestrian statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy,” Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president, said in a statement to the Times. “It is time to move the statue and move forward.”
The removal comes shortly after a string previously non-controversial historical figures – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Lewis & Clark, Christopher Columbus – had statues honoring them taken down by both rioters and city commissions throughout the country.
Categories: U.S. News