History | June 22, 2020 7:00 am

Museum of Natural History Announces Removal of Theodore Roosevelt Statue

The statue has been controversial for years

Theodore Roosevelt statue
The controversial statue.
Paulo JC Nogueira/Creative Commons

As you may have noticed, statues of controversial figures have been toppled all over the world in recent weeks. In New York City, another statue of a prominent but divisive historical figure is also on its way out — but in this case, it’s not protesters who are handling the removal, but the museum on whose grounds the statue stands. The museum in question is the American Museum of Natural History, and the statue is one of Theodore Roosevelt; it’s been outside of the museum since 1940.

As Robin Pogrebin reports for The New York Times, the decision comes from the museum itself, and has the backing of the city government. The statue of Roosevelt has drawn controversy for a while, including an exhibit at the museum itself focusing on the divisive opinions surrounding it. Why? Well, as the museum’s own explanation phrased it, “the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.”

In the statue, Roosevelt is on horseback; walking beside him are two men, one Indigenous and one Black. It’s not hard to see why this is deeply problematic. In a statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that “it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.” Among the voices giving support to the statue-removal plan: Roosevelt’s own great-grandson.

The Times article notes that the details of the statue-removal plan remain unclear:

When the monument will be taken down, where it will go and what, if anything, will replace it, remain undetermined, officials said.

Given that the controversy surrounding this statue has been in place for a while, this decision seems long overdue.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.