Theodore Roosevelt Statue Removed from NYC Museum for Depicting ‘Racial Hierarchy’

A wall, scaffolding and white tarp surround what is left of the controversial equestrian statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, at the American Museum of Natural History, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in New York. A crew removed a portion of the statue overnight. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

A statue of Theodore Roosevelt — the 26th president of the United States — was removed overnight Wednesday from its place in front of the the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Microsoft News reported.

Sam Biederman of the New York City Parks Department previously said that although the work “was not erected with malice of intent,” its composition “supports a thematic framework of colonization and racism.” The bronze statue shows Roosevelt riding a horse with an African American man and a Native American man on either side of him on foot. 

The museum website said about its removal:

The statue was meant to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt … as a devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history. At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.

The New York City-owned statue will be on long-term loan to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota, which is set to open in 2026. NYC officials said last year that the library is “a fitting new home” because Roosevelt spent time in the Badlands, and his statue could be “appropriately contextualized” there. According to the report:

Library trustees agreed the statue was “problematic in its composition” and said in a statement they would be establishing an advisory council comprising representatives from Indigenous and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to determine next steps. 

The NYC museum first announced in June 2020 that it had approval from the city and a “blessing” from Roosevelt’s great-grandson to remove the “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt.” Bill de Blasio (D), who was mayor at the time, said the removal was “the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue” because it “explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.”

“President Donald Trump called the decision “ridiculous” on Twitter at the time and urged authorities not to remove it,” according to the report. 

The statue was first commissioned in 1925 and designed by James Earle Fraser, the report continues. The statue had been fixed on the steps of the museum since 1940 — Roosevelt’s father was notably a co-found of the museum. 

The Roosevelt statue is the latest historical statue to be removed in the United States, a movement which has “gained momentum” following Black Lives Matter protests and riots across the country in 2020.

“Statues of Confederate leaders, Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have been set ablaze, vandalized or torn down by protesters in some places. In 2017, the Roosevelt statue itself was doused in red paint by a group called the “Monument Removal Brigade,” which said the statue represented “patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism,” according to the report. 

NYC also removed a monument of Jefferson last year “over the former president’s history as [an] enslaver.”

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