Posted on January 24, 2022

New York City’s Natural History Museum Has Removed a Theodore Roosevelt Statue

Rachel Treisman, NPR, January 20, 2022

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City quietly began removing a controversial statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt on Tuesday night in the final chapter of a saga that has stretched for nearly a year and a half. By Thursday, only scaffolding and tarp remained.


The bronze statue — officially named “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt”— has towered outside the museum’s entrance for some 80 years and became a source of local and national debate in recent years. It depicts the former New York governor and 26th U.S. president sitting on a horse, flanked by two shirtless, unnamed men. One is Native American and the other is of African descent.

The statue was commissioned in 1925 to stand on the museum’s steps, since Roosevelt’s father was one of its founders and Roosevelt himself was a “devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history,” as the museum’s website explains.

But it adds that the design itself “communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.” Roosevelt’s legacy — especially his views on race and support for the eugenics movement — has also come under wider scrutiny in recent years.

In 2017, a commission established by then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio evaluated the statue and several other controversial monuments on city-owned land. Members were divided on their recommendations, with half advocating for more research, half in favor of relocating the statue and several recommending that the museum keep the statue in place but add signage with more information and context. The city went with the third option.

While the museum went on to open an exhibit about the statue’s history and contemporary reactions to it in 2019, the nationwide reckoning with racial injustice following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd made “abundantly clear that this approach is not sufficient,” as officials put it in June of that year.


De Blasio was quick to convey the city’s support, telling NPR at the time that it was “the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.” (Notably, then-President Donald Trump publicly disagreed.)

Theodore Roosevelt IV, a museum trustee and great-grandson to the former president, also gave his blessing. {snip}