A racist statue at the Museum of Natural History that depicts former President Theodore Roosevelt flanked by a Native American and African man that has been at the museum since 1940 is officially being removed — and Teddy Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, a museum trustee, supports the decision. “The world does not need statues… that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor the values of equality and justice,” he says.
The statue has long been a target of activists who argue that the hierarchical nature of the statue — which features Roosevelt on horseback, walking ahead of the Native man and the African man, makes it a clear statement on race and perceived white superiority over people of color. In 2017, activists splashed red liquid at the base of the statue, representing blood, and called for its removal due to its status as an emblem of “patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.”
While the statue is being removed, Theodore Roosevelt’s status as a conservationist is not in question. The museum will name the Hall of Biodiversity after the famous president who established the national parks system.
Theodore Roosevelt’s statue is not the only one to come down, or have its status threatened, in recent weeks. Portland, Oregon protesters set fire to a statue of George Washington, Nashville, Tennessee lawmakers have debated taking down statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a KKK member, from the capitol building. In England, an 18-foot tall statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader, was taken down and thrown into the river.
Many local governments in the United States have quietly removed statues of Civil War leaders, Confederate generals, and more, seemingly overnight, after what felt like years and years of debate over the statues and their place in American history — and whether or not they deserve a space in the public sphere. The debate, it turns out, does not have to be so lengthy.