Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the removal, saying the statue "explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior"

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 22, 2020 11:25 AM
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Rob Kim/Getty; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

President Donald Trump is not supporting the official removal of a Theodore Roosevelt statue that has been criticized for exemplifying racially insensitive iconography.

On Sunday, the 45th president spoke out against the decision to remove the 26th president's sculpture from the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

"Ridiculous, don't do it!" Trump, 74, tweeted about the decision, which comes as many decades-old monuments across the country are being torn down or questioned amid ongoing protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

The agreement to remove the Roosevelt statue came after years of complaints about its depiction, which shows the former U.S. president on horseback with a Native American man and an African man trailing behind him on either side.

Ellen V. Futter, the museum’s president, told The New York Times that the statue's "hierarchical composition" is why they will remove it, and the museum still views Roosevelt himself as a "pioneering conservationist."

“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,” said Futter. “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 added: “Simply put, the time has come to move it.”

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the removal, saying in a statement on Sunday that it's the "right decision," according to KABC.

"The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior," said de Blasio. "The City supports the Museum's request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue."

Back in 2017, protesters defaced the Roosevelt statue with red liquid to represent bloodshed, according to the Associated Press. A statement at the time from the protesters said the statue symbolized "patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism."

In 1940, sculptor James Earle Fraser had a different view on the statue, saying the two figures at Roosevelt’s side are "guides symbolizing the continents of Africa and America, and if you choose may stand for Roosevelt’s friendliness to all races," according to the museum's history of the statue.

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Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of Roosevelt and a member of the museum's board of trustees, issued a recent statement in support of the removal, saying that it is time to "move forward."

"The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice," the statement read, according to The Washington Post. "The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the Statue and move forward."

Details on when the removal will happen and whether the statue will be replaced have not yet been released.