The Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, has had a well-known statue of President Teddy Roosevelt looking heroic astride a horse on its front steps since 1940.
But it looks like it’s now getting the axe as part of the overall Monument Mob mania.
People doubted President Donald Trump when he said in 2017 that people might be coming for the statues of the founders and people who had nothing to do with the Confederacy and we’ve seen that is more than true, with people pulling down or vandalizing statues/monuments to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln.
On top of it all, it’s the Museum itself taking it down, the place where you would think historical representations would in fact be safe.
“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,” museum president Ellen Futter told The New York Times. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism.”
“Simply put,” said Futter, “the time has come to move it.”
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the stature depicts the two figures other than Roosevelt as inferior.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio said in a statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request.”
But the problem of course is people reading into the statue asserting their own biases and interpretations, not the intent of the statue from the artist.
According to the artist, “The two figures at [Roosevelt’s] side are guides symbolizing the continents of Africa and America, and if you choose may stand for Roosevelt’s friendliness to all races,” sculptor James Earle Fraser said in 1940.
As Harriet Senie, who is the Director of the MA program for Art History and Art Museum Studies at the City College of New York, said the architect called the figures “heroic” as a group.
“Pope refers to the figures as a ‘heroic group.’ “That’s important. In some criticisms, the standing figures were taken to be lesser than Roosevelt. That was never the intention. They are allegorical figures representing Africa and America,” she said.
Why is Roosevelt on the horse? Because he is the central figure of the piece, the horse symbolic of his personality as a Rough Rider, not because the other figures are somehow racially inferior.
How about instead of trying to get rid of history, we all study it a little more so it can inform us? How about putting an explanation of what it means with the statue? Maybe if more did so, there would be a greater regard for history and less of a desire to pull it down.
“The Man In The Arena” by Teddy Roosevelt. pic.twitter.com/H8JPqRwefW
— Ralph Napolitano (@DrRalphNap) June 21, 2020