A statue of Theodore Roosevelt will be removed from its place in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that the statue, which has stood at the West Entrance of Central Park for 80 years, will be taken down after years of accusations that bronze figure affirms racist and colonialist ideals.
The statue portrays the 26th president on horseback, with a Black man and Native American man standing on each side.
In a written statement, de Blasio said the museum’s board made the decision to remove the statue, “because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.”
The museum’s president, Ellen Futter, explained how the current racial climate in the wake of nationwide protests and renewed momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement played a role in the timing of the decision, saying 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,” in a statement to The New York Times. The mayor has agreed with Futter, saying it is the “right time” to take the statue down.
“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 added.
The statue, named Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt and sculpted by James Earle Fraser, depicts the Black and Native American men as the former’s president’s “manservants” who carry his rifles.
The decision to remove the statue has been well received by Roosevelt’s own descendants: Roosevelt’s great-grandson Theodore Roosevelt IV also co-signed the statue’s removal, stating that it is time to “move forward.”
However, President Donald Trump quickly expressed his disapproval of the statue’s removal and took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction.Although the current circumstances regarding the racial climate may have affected the timing of this decision, criticism of the statue is not new. In 2016, during an anti-Columbus Day protest, an organization called Decolonize this Place covered the statue with gray fabric. In 2017, protesters splashed red liquid on the statue’s base to symbolize blood.
The removal of the current statue represents just one example of the growing disapproval of controversial historic sculptures. In recent weeks, protesters destroyed a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, toppled a statue of a segregationist lawmaker in Nashville, Tennessee, and hanged a Confederate statue in Raleigh, North Carolina, from a lamppost.