The statue depicts Teddy Roosevelt on horseback towering over a black man and a Native American. The American Museum of Natural History, where it has sat for 80 years, asked that it be removed.
NEW YORK (AFP) — New York City announced Sunday it would remove a statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt, long criticized as a racist and colonialist symbol, a move that was praised by Roosevelt’s great-grandson but criticized by President Trump.
The decision comes with the United States gripped by widespread protests against racial inequality and white-on-black police killings, with demonstrators toppling a number of statues of figures with racist legacies.
The bronze sculpture of Roosevelt, which has been at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History for 80 years, depicts the former leader on horseback towering over a black man and a Native American man — who are both on foot.
Citing the movement for racial justice, the museum said: “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.”
The Roosevelt statue, it said, “has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside, and many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist.”
New York City authorities agreed to the museum’s request to remove the statue,
“It explicitly depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
“The city supports the museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president, and while he was celebrated as a conservationist and progressive at the time, he held racist views toward black and Native American people, according to the Museum of Natural History website.
A Roosevelt family member released a statement approving the removal.
“The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV, 77, a great-grandson.
“The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward,” Roosevelt said.
But Trump blasted the decision, tweeting: “Ridiculous, don’t do it!”
Trump had called on police to arrest demonstrators who took down a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
The protests against racial inequality and police brutality have seen the toppling or removal of statues depicting Confederate generals, colonial figures and slave traders in the United States, Britain and New Zealand.
The figures targeted by protesters have included Christopher Columbus and British colonialist diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes.
© Agence France-Presse