The bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt, on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, which has presided over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940, is coming down.
The museum made the call to take down the statue and New York City, which owns the building and property, agreed with the museum’s decision, according to The New York Times. The bronze statue features Roosevelt on horseback and flanked on both sides by an African man and a Native American man.
“The statue was meant to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as a devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history. Roosevelt’s father was one of the Museum’s founders, and the Museum is proud of its historic association with the Roosevelt family,” the museum said in a statement. “At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.”
The statue’s removal comes after left-wing activists have destroyed statues across the country in recent days, including statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, Francis Scott Key, and Junipero Serra.
The museum said that it was going to rename its Hall of Biodiversity after Roosevelt to honor his legacy as a conservationist.
The New York Times added:
[The museum’s president, Ellen V. Futter] also made a point of saying that the museum was only taking issue with the statue itself, not with Roosevelt overall, with whom the institution has a long history.
His father was a founding member of the institution; its charter was signed in his home. Roosevelt’s childhood excavations were among the museum’s first artifacts. The museum was chosen by New York’s state legislature for Roosevelt’s memorial in 1920.
The museum already has several spaces named after Roosevelt, including Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda and Theodore Roosevelt Park outside.
“It’s very important to note that our request is based on the statue, that is the hierarchical composition that’s depicted in it,” Ms. Futter said. “It is not about Theodore Roosevelt who served as Governor of New York before becoming the 26th president of the United States and was a pioneering conservationist.”
The museum noted in its statement that New York City Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio had created a commission in 2017 to “evaluate a number of controversial monuments around the city, including the Roosevelt statue, which sits on city-owned land. The City determined that the Roosevelt statue would remain in place but that more information should be provided.”
The movement to remove statues across the country was recently triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
This report has been updated to include additional information.
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