The museum had sought to remove the statue ‘because it explicitly depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior’
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Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the US, is also facing the heat in the season of protests against racial injustice and police brutality as it has been decided to remove his statue at the entrance of the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The bronze statue of ‘Teddy’ sitting on a horse and flanked by a native American and black man was made by James Earle Fraser and has remained at the museum’s entrance since 1940.
According to a report in The New York Times, the museum, which is run privately but is located on public land, made the request about removing the statue and the city authorities agreed to it. “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,” the museum’s president, Ellen Futter, was quoted as saying by the NYT. “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,” she said, adding: “Simply put, the time has come to move it.”
It is not the first time that the said statue has come under fire. In October 2017, months after the violence that was ignited by white supremacists in Charlottesville, the 10-foot tall statue was defaced with red paint. In 2016, too, several activists gathered at the museum to take down the “racist” statue of Roosevelt.
Currently, the movement to remove statues has gained traction on both sides of the Atlantic in the wake of the brutal killing of a black American named George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police last month. The Black Lives Matter Movement has gained momentum since the tragedy with violent protests spreading across the US. Statues of Confederate leaders symbolizing racism have been pulled down and even top political leaders have found themselves getting involved in the row. While President Donald Trump has expressed his objection to rename military bases after Confederate leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for removing statues of controversial past leaders from the Capitol.
The planned removal of Roosevelt came as some members of the City Council asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week to get the statue of Thomas Jefferson removed from City Hall on grounds that he “fathered as many as six children with a woman he enslaved”. Besides, efforts have also been made to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Columbus Circle owing to the 15th-century explorer’s dubious record of enslaving indigenous people in the Caribbeans. There have already been instances of Columbus’s statue being toppled (fully or partially) in other parts of the country, including Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts.
On the removal of the Roosevelt statue, de Blasio said in a statement that the museum had sought to remove the 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”. Roosevelt (1858-1919) served as a Republican president between 1901 and 1909 and was known to be one of the most prominent presidents in the history of the US. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.
Conservatives slam ‘Teddy’ statue removal plan
The decision to remove Roosevelt’s statue was not welcomed by several prominent Americans, espcially the conservatives. Here are some reactions that came on Twitter against the decision. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican member of NY State Assembly, said: “First, they go after our Nation’s Founding Fathers — Washington and Jefferson — in City Hall. Now TR??!! This is insanity and it has to stop now.”
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, tweeted: “So now Teddy Roosevelt will be taken down. We have officially entered French Revolution territory. If the radical left mob takes full power the heads of statues will be replaced w the careers of those who dare counter them (sic).” David French, senior editor at The Dispatch, called it “terrible”. Author Ann Coulter said: “Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to invite African-Americans to dine at the White House.”