If you’ve ever visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, you may have come across a statue of former president Theodore Roosevelt. The statue depicts Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by a Native American man and an African man. In recent years, there has been controversy surrounding the statue and its placement in the museum.
History of the Statue
The Theodore Roosevelt statue was unveiled in 1940, more than two decades after Roosevelt’s death. The sculpture was created by James Earle Fraser and commissioned by the museum’s Board of Trustees. Fraser was known for his sculptures of Native Americans, and he included two figures representing diversity alongside Roosevelt to symbolize his progressive views.
In recent years, there has been debate about whether the statue should be removed from its prominent location outside the museum’s entrance. Critics argue that the statue is a symbol of colonialism, racism, and white supremacy. They point to Roosevelt’s controversial views on race and imperialism as evidence that he is an inappropriate figure to be celebrated in such a way.
Supporters of the statue argue that it is an important historical artifact that should be preserved. They note that while Roosevelt held some problematic views, he also made significant contributions to conservation efforts during his presidency. They believe that removing the statue would be erasing an important part of American history.
The Museum’s Response
In 2017, the museum added a plaque near the statue acknowledging Roosevelt’s complicated legacy. The plaque reads in part: “The equestrian memorial to Theodore Roosevelt reflects his major role in shaping American history at the turn of the twentieth century..At the same time, this monument.can be seen as an emblem of the way cultural heritage institutions have contributed to the marginalization of people and communities.”
While some see this as a step forward, others argue that it does not go far enough. They believe that the statue should be moved to a less prominent location within the museum, or even removed entirely.
The controversy surrounding the Theodore Roosevelt statue at the American Museum of Natural History is a reflection of larger debates about how we choose to remember historical figures and their legacies. While there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue, it is clear that this statue will continue to be a topic of discussion for years to come.