Theodore Roosevelt is one of America’s most-revered presidents. He is, after all, famously immortalized on Mount Rushmore.
A bronze statue of Roosevelt that stands outside The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, however, is not looked upon so kindly.
The statue, which has stood at the museum’s entrance since 1940, depicts Roosevelt — a founding member of the institution — on horseback. Also as part of the statue, an African man and a Native American man stand on foot behind the horse.
Critics have complained about the statue for years, saying it “symbolizes colonialism and racial discrimination,” the New York Times reports. Criticism increased even more last year after the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked widespread protests across the country, the article continues.
Then, last June, museum officials proposed removing the statue. That request was made to the City of New York because the museum is on city-owned property.
Earlier this week, the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to relocate the statue.
The “Conservation President”
Theodore Roosevelt, often referred to as “Teddy” or simply “TR,” is famous for many exploits and actions.
Most famously, perhaps, is that when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Roosevelt quit his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to lead a volunteer cavalry regiment as a Lt. Colonel in the Army. That regiment, of course, was known as the “Rough Riders.” Roosevelt, as you know, led the Rough Riders in charges up San Juan and Kettle Hills in Cuba during that war.
More importantly, Roosevelt — an avid outdoorsman — created what’s now known as the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and worked to conserve forests for continued use. As the National Park Service (NPS) explains, “Between the parks he established in partnership with Congress and his enactment of the Antiquities Act in 1906, Roosevelt designated 23 sites that would become part of the National Park Service’s purview when it was created in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.”
Here’s the scope of those actions: During his presidency, Roosevelt established 230 million acres as public lands, NPS explains. Approximately 150 million acres of that land was set aside as national forests.
The Current Situation
After the vote to relocate the Roosevelt statue, The American Museum of Natural History officials said they were pleased with the commission’s vote in a prepared statement.
Sam Biederman, chief of staff and assistant commissioner at NYC Parks, called the move to remove the statue “incredibly rare,” but “the right course of action,” the New York Times reports.
“Though historical circumstances demonstrate that this sculpture was not erected with malice of intent, the compositional hierarchy … visually supports the thematic framework of colonization and racism,” Biederman said, CNN reports.
A new home for the Roosevelt statue hasn’t been determined yet. However, officials with NYC’s Public Design Commission said the city and museum will coordinate a long-term loan of the statue to publicly accessible grounds or a cultural institution dedicated to Roosevelt’s life and legacy, CNN reports.
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