And that included right here in NYC. A petition to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Columbus Circle as well as rename the area has been continuously shared, and the famous statue that sits in front of the iconic American Museum of Natural History will be removed, as requested by the museum itself.
The statue depicts former New York State Governor and President of the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt, riding on horseback with an Indigenous man and an African man standing below him on either side. The Museum said that many, including the institution itself, “find its depictions of the…figures and their placement in the monument racist.”
The Museum released a statement on June 21, 2020 requesting its removal, and Mayor de Blasio also confirmed the news the same day (since the statue is owned by the city). Now this November, it has been shared where the statue will be relocated to: a new presidential library in North Dakota.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (“TR Library”) is expected to open in 2026 in North Dakota, which has made an agreement with the City of New York for a long-term loan of the statue. A press release also shared that members of the Roosevelt family are supportive of this decision, and that though it will be put in storage for now, the library is considering a display that “would enable it to serve as an important tool to study the nation’s past.” If so, an Advisory Council with representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists would guide the “recontextualization of the statue.”
The museum President said they expect the removal of the statue to take place this fall, and that it will take several months to be fully removed.
Here is an excerpt that explains the Museum’s reasoning, you can read the full explanation here.
“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. We also have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues and monuments as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism…We recognize that more work is needed to better understand not only the Statue, but our own history. As we strive to advance our institution’s, our City’s, and our country’s passionate quest for racial justice, we believe that removing the Statue will be a symbol of progress and of our commitment to build and sustain an inclusive and equitable Museum community and broader society.”
According to the Museum, the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers reviewed problematic statues across the city to determine if any should be removed back in 2017. The Roosevelt statue was included in this, but the commission did not reach a consensus. The Museum opened a thorough examination on the meaning and history of the statue in their exhibit “Addressing the Statue,” but say that “in the current moment, it is abundantly clear that this approach is not sufficient.”
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