Taking Down a Racist Sculpture in the Center of Manhattan

statue of Roosevelt on horse, flanked by a Black man and a Native man on foot

Laurie and Debbie say:

For many decades, both of us have hated the statue on the east side of the Museum of Natural History (pictured above). President Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by two subservient men of color: the very picture of white supremacy in bronze.

In 2017, we put up a guest blog from Laurie’s brother Mike, about his engagement in activism to get it taken down:

To call this status racist, jingoistic and extremely offensive is to understate the case. The City of New York and the Museum of Natural History are reminding every visitor every day that they believe in white supremacy, that white privileged people like Roosevelt are appropriate leaders of “inferior” races. The statue says clearly that they are inferior: he’s dressed and they’re half-naked; he’s on a horse and they’re on foot. Thank God that in 2017 we still have powerful White men to show you Black people and Native Americans the way. …

This week, New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the statue is finally coming down. Nora McGreevy writes about this for Smithsonian Magazine:

… on Sunday, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests against racism, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that it would at last come down.

The removal came at the request of the museum, which also released a statement asking for the statue’s removal, reports Robin Pogrebin for the New York Times. It comes amid a nationwide push to remove public works honoring Confederate leaders, including incidents of some protesters taking matters into their own hands by vandalizing or pulling down memorials themselves.

It is shameful that the statue was ever erected, and more shameful still that it is standing in 2020. And yet, it will be an unalloyed pleasure to walk past that side of the museum and not be confronted with such a hateful image.

Symbolic victories can be satisfying.