Controversial Theodore Roosevelt statue outside of New York museum finds a home

21November 2021

The statue will be on long-term loan to the newly announced Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library opening in Medora in 2026, according to the Friday statement.
In June, the New York City Public Design Commission unanimously voted to remove and temporarily store the statue after years of debate. The statue’s removal is subject to final approval by the Design Commission and is expected to take several months beginning late fall, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) President Ellen V. Futter said in a statement.
The statue features the 26th president on horseback flanked by a Native American man on one side and an African man on the other — conveying a “racial hierarchy that the museum and members of the public have long found disturbing,” wrote the museum in its initial removal request in June 2020.
Members of the Roosevelt family support the decision to move the statue to the planned North Dakota presidential library, and the statement said they “will establish an Advisory Council composed of representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to guide the recontextualization of the statue.”
“The Equestrian Statue is problematic in its hierarchical depiction of its subjects and should be removed from New York State’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt,” Theodore Roosevelt V, a descendant of the late President, said. “Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it.”
He continued: “It is fitting that the statue is being relocated to a place where its composition can be recontextualized to facilitate difficult, complex, and inclusive discussions.”
The statue, which was unveiled in front of the museum in 1940 as part of a larger statewide memorial to Roosevelt, a former New York governor, was originally intended to celebrate him, according to a statement by the AMNH.
“At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing,” the statement from the museum reads.
“Museums are supposed to do hard things,” Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation CEO Edward F. O’Keefe said in a statement. “It is said that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’ and our job is to forthrightly examine history to understand the present and make a better future.”

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