NYC to remove "problematic" Teddy Roosevelt statue with "hierarchical depiction of its subjects" from museum

Nov 23rd

New York City is on a roll with its removal of "problematic" statues.

The "Equestrian Statue" of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History is the latest historic American statue to get canceled.

The statue features Roosevelt mounted on a horse "flanked by an African man and a Native American man," as the New York Post described it.

"The board of the [Theodore Roosevelt] Library believes the Equestrian Statue is problematic in its composition," a statement on Friday from the the Theodore Roosevelt President Library Foundation reads.

"[The statue's] current location denies passersby consent and context. The agreement with the City allows the TR Library to relocate the statue for storage while considering a display that would enable it to serve as an important tool to study the nation's past. With the support of members of the Roosevelt family, the TR Library 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."

Physical removal of the statue "will take several months" and "will begin later this fall," according to the statement.

"Museums are supposed to do hard things," said Edward F. O'Keefe, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation. "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."

The announcement has been a long time coming since the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously in June to relocate the statue. Museum officials proposed removing the statue back in June 2020 during protests across the nation to remove historical American statues.

Theodore Roosevelt V also called the statue "problematic" in Friday's statement.

"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," said Theodore Roosevelt V. "Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it. 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 will be relocated to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, which is set to open in 2026.

"We are grateful to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library for proposing a fitting new home for the Equestrian Statue," said Vicki Been, New York City's Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. "This long-term loan would allow an important part of the City's art collection to be appropriately contextualized, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Library on next steps."

NYC also finalized its previously announced removal of the Thomas Jefferson statue from City Hall on Monday, which stood there for 187 years!


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