Visual Culture

Theodore Roosevelt’s statue will be removed from the American Museum of Natural History entrance.

Daria Simone Harper
Jun 22, 2020 5:10PM, via The New York Times

Statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History. Image via Flickr.

New York’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) will remove the bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has stood at the museum’s entrance since 1940. The statue, which shows Roosevelt astride a horse and flanked by an Indigenous man and a Black man, has been criticized by many for being a symbol of colonialism and white supremacy. This decision comes amidst increasing pressure for the removal of monuments that commemorate imperialism and racism around the world. Though activists have been calling for the removal of racist monuments for years, recent protests over George Floyd’s killing have brought conversations about racism in the United States to the fore.

Ellen V. Futter, AMNH’s president, told the New York Times:

Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd. 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.

The museum presented the decision to the city, which is the owner of the museum building and the property it sits on. Museum officials have not yet determined when the statue will be removed, what will be done with it, or if a new monument will take its place. The museum will continue to honor Roosevelt’s legacy as a conservationist. Futter told the New York Times the museum will name its Hall of Biodiversity after Roosevelt “in recognition of his conservation legacy.”

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement quoted by the New York Times:

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.

Over the past few weeks, statues dedicated to Confederate soldiers, racist city officials, and slave owners have been removed by protesters. Several memorials were taken down in Virginia, Alabama, and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, protesters in Bristol, U.K. brought down a statue of slave trader, Edward Colston, and dumped it into a nearby river.

Daria Simone Harper