Theodore Roosevelt statue removed from New York museum after sparking controversy

Written by Sara Smart, CNN

Contributors Liam Reilly, CNN

A statue of US President Theodore Roosevelt that sat outside a New York museum for nearly 80 years was removed this week after criticism over its “racial” image.
The sculpture, which was in the American Museum of Natural History, depicted the 26th president on horseback with a Native American and an African on either side of him.

A spokesperson for the museum told CNN in a written statement Thursday that the process of removing the statue was “conducted with historic preservation specialists and approved by multiple New York City agencies.” It will include a restoration of the square in front of the museum.

The removal began on Tuesday and the sculpture was gone by Thursday, after a year-and-a-half process.

The museum first called for the statue to be removed in June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the global protests that followed. The Roosevelt statue now joins a number of other American monuments that have been moved in recent months. Most, if not all, of these dismissals were prompted by the 2020 protests.

“The statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing,” the museum wrote in its June application. This is reflected in the composition of the statue: the white man, Roosevelt, is placed in the center on horseback while the other two men are behind him, walking.

This June 2020 request was approved by then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A year later, the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to temporarily remove and store the sculpture.

In this photo from Dec. 2, 2021, construction workers begin to remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt. Credit: Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images

A new home for the statue was announced last November: Medora, North Dakota, about two hours west of Bismarck, in the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

The library, which is expected to open in 2026, said in a statement that it has entered into a long-term loan agreement with New York City.

Since 1940, the sculpture has stood in front of the New York Museum and was originally commissioned to celebrate Roosevelt.

“The museum is proud to continue to be the site of New York State’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt,” he added in a written statement.

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