Wednesday night, the iconic bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback was removed from its place outside the American Museum of Natural History.
The monument depicting the 26th president of the United States came under harsh scrutiny during the summer of 2020 in the wake of the public's reaction to George Floyd's death. Many found the sculpture's depiction of a black man and a Native American flanking Roosevelt offensive. They argued that the statue glorified "colonialism" and "racism," the New York Post reported.
A descendant of the former president, Theodore Roosevelt V, embraced the statue's relocation. He referred to the figure as "problematic in its hierarchical depiction of its subjects" and said that it "should be removed from New York State's official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt."
In June, the New York City Public Design Commission unanimously approved the statue's removal. In November, the New York Times said, the Public Design Commission decided to loan the statue to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota.
Vicki Been, the city's deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said that loaning the statue to the library would "allow an important part of the city's art collection to be appropriately contextualized."
The outcry against the statue was met with stiff rebuttals as many characterized the accusations of bigotry as an outgrowth of cancel culture. One such rebuttal came from the New York Young Republican Club who called the decision to remove the iconic statue "shameful" as it extolled the patriotic values that Roosevelt embodied and that it served as a monument to one of the most popular American presidents.
The Roosevelt statue isn't the only monument to past American leaders to be removed from public display in recent times due to public outcry. In 2021, the famous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, was removed and dozens of statues and monuments to various historic figures were defaced and destroyed during the summertime riots of 2020.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library intends to establish an advisory council to determine how to best use the statue moving forward. The council will include Native Americans, blacks, historians, and other academics to determine how to re-contextualize its presentation. Nevertheless, the library is slated to open in 2026 where the famous statue is expected to be on display.
For eight decades, visitors to one of New York's most popular destinations were greeted by Theodore Roosevelt on horseback. Now, they will be greeted by an empty podium.