Theodore Roosevelt, once revered enough to be chosen as one of four US presidents immortalized on Mount Rushmore, is now deemed too offensive for his statue to remain outside a museum that his father co-founded in New York City.
A bronze statue of Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by a Native American and an African man, was removed with a crane and hauled away on Wednesday night. The monument had stood prominently outside Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History for more than 80 years, but it’s now being moved to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota.
The museum had long been proud of its association with the Roosevelt family. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt Sr. was one of the four philanthropists who co-founded the institution in 1869. His son, who went on to become America’s 26th president, was born in Manhattan and served as New York’s governor at the dawn of the 20th century.
Affectionately known as “Teddy” or “TR,” Theodore Roosevelt Jr. became president at the age of 42, the youngest ever. He championed populist policies, such as breaking up the trusts that then had a stranglehold on the US economy. Before politics, he became a war hero by leading his “Rough Riders” against the Spanish army in Cuba. He won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
Roosevelt was also known as a great conservationist, having established five national parks, and the New York statue was meant to celebrate his legacy as a devoted naturalist. However, during the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation in 2020, criticism of the monument escalated. Demonstrators complained that the statue glorified colonialism and promoted a “racial hierarchy.”
New York’s Public Design Commission voted last June to remove the statue, and the museum covered it with an orange tarp last month. The removal work and restoration of the monument site will reportedly cost about $2 million.
Roosevelt is just the latest historical figure to be canceled. A statue of former president Thomas Jefferson was removed from New York City Hall, where it had stood for 187 years, last November. Jefferson, who was the main author of the Declaration of Independence – and whose face was sculpted on Mount Rushmore next to Roosevelt’s – owned slaves.