The statue of President Theodore Roosevelt that’s currently erected in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City will be removed, according to a statement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.
The request to remove the statue actually came from the Museum of Natural History themselves, as the statue features America’s 26th president on a horse while a Native American and Black man stand on each side of the horse itself. The removal is also a general response to the multitude of confederate statues that are either being removed by protesters or requested to be removed by local officials in light of the current social justice issues America is enduring.
“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,” de Blasio’s office said.
Executives working for the Museum of Natural History also released a statement on their website, claiming that while the statue was originally placed in front of the museum as a means of celebrating Roosevelt as “devoted naturalist” and American historian, the message behind the statue also “communicates a racial hierarchy that the museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.”
No specific date of removal has been set yet, but the museum is currently working with NYC officials on the proper protocol for removing and storing a historical statue that’s been a part of the museum’s property for so many years. The statue itself is titled the “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt” and was initially commissioned to be made for the museum in 1925. It made its debut in 1940 as a part of New York’s larger memorial to Roosevelt, according to the museum.
“To understand the statue, we must recognize our country’s enduring legacy of racial discrimination — as well as Roosevelt’s troubling views on race. We must also acknowledge the museum’s own imperfect history. Such an effort does not excuse the past but it can create a foundation for honest, respectful, open dialogue,” the museum continued in their statement.
As previously stated the museum’s decision was also inspired by the many historically confederate and racist statues currently being removed from parks and other state establishments in America. Just last week New Jersey’s Monmouth University voted to remove President Woodrow Wilson’s name from the campus’s Great Hall.
The University’s decision, like the museums, is a result of Wilson’s controversial reign as a politician. Wilson famously viewed racial segregation as a “benefit” to the country and its power structure. He also defended the enslavement of Black people by claiming that slaves in general were “happy and well-cared for.”
The protests and demand for true systemic change has been a fight since the dawn of the civil rights movement. Protesters want US officials to think about what we choose to memorialize and turn into monuments. When we honor things like the Vietnam War or 9/11, we often honor the victims of those tragic events in American history, so why aren’t there more monuments for the millions of slaves that were forced into this country? The Museum of Natural History agreed with this sentiment,and is hoping other historical institutions follow suit.