Teddy Roosevelt Statue Headed for North Dakota; ‘Farewell or Good Riddance Depends on Your Point of View’

The American Museum of Natural History. Photograph by T.D. Hudson.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The scaffolding makes it real. The process has begun.

Whether you’re celebrating or mourning, fuming or couldn’t care less, the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, as it is formally known, is being removed after 81 years of greeting visitors at the American Museum of Natural History, on 80th Street and Central Park West.

That role of unofficial museum-greeter is part of the reason for its removal, according to the board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, in Medora, North Dakota, where the statue is being sent on “long-term loan” from New York City. Not everyone feels welcomed by it.

The statue comes with heavy baggage; it has long been a source of anger and protest by individuals and groups who believe it portrays people of color as subservient and inferior — and whites as superior. The statue shows Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by a Black man and a Native-American man, half clad and on foot.

Photograph by Edward H. Blake via WikipediaCommons.

“The board of the TR Library believes the Equestrian Statue is problematic in its composition,” a press release said. “Moreover, its current location denies passersby consent and context. The agreement with the City allows the TR Library to relocate the statue for storage while considering a display that would enable it to serve as an important tool to study the nation’s past.”

Presumably, that process will occur between now and 2026, when the TR Library is scheduled to open.

Members of the Roosevelt family are in favor of the plan. “With their added support, the TR Library will establish an Advisory Council composed of representatives of the Indigenous Tribal and Black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to guide the recontextualization of the statue,” according to the release.

Theodore Roosevelt V, a great-great grandson of the president, said, “Rather than burying a troubling work of art, we ought to learn from it.”

The removal of the statue will be “a multi-month process, including the restoration of the steps,” a spokesperson for the AMNH informed the Rag. (What will the skateboarders do in the meantime?) “We do not have a specific date for removal, but will get back to you as the schedule resolves.”

The Museum will pay the costs of removing the statue, according to The New York Times, which also reported that a design has been approved for a plaque for the empty site.

As one Upper West Side man said, “Farewell or good riddance depends on your point of view.”

Either way, the statue is unlikely to greet as many passers-by as it does today. Medora (pinpointed below) has a population of 129.

ART, NEWS, OUTDOORS | 58 comments | permalink
    1. SadforUWS says:

      Goodbye, my favorite NYC statue after Liberty. The people here do not deserve you.

    2. S says:

      While our leadership fiddles with pointless virtue signaling, innocent people are stabbed to death around the corner. Who would have thought that ideology only can’t will away real worl problems.

      • lynn says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. There has been too much time, effort, and money wasted on this museum and everything surrounding it. I would like to know where all of the ‘woke’ protesters stand on the issue of the homeless/mentally ill people they pass in the street on a daily basis. What happened to the group(s) that were so concerned about the men in the shelters/hotels during the height of Covid? They can’t turn their efforts to the street homeless now? It’s shameful.

    3. Leon says:

      Please read the recent article in the NYT about why Biden voters also voted for Youngkin in Virginia (TL/DR – Democrats are too worried about social issues and identity politics and not enough about core issues like the economy). Then extrapolate this to critical national elections in 2022 and 2024. Then think about whether this is really something we should be doing.

      The sculptor was trying to be inclusive and acknowledge the contributions of others to Roosevelt’s work. Isn’t it better that they are included as secondary figures than not at all? It’s not like TR is whipping them.

      This is an embarrassment. And to think AMNH is wasting money on this while begging for funds for other expansions.

      • Rook says:

        Just wanted to say that it’s a bit out of touch if to think that social issues aren’t related to “core” issues.

    4. David says:

      A disgraceful concession to those who would eradicate America’s great names and events. As NY Police Commissioner, the Governor of the State, the Vice President, and then the Prrsident of the United States, TR made monumental contributions and was one of our greatest Americans. Can wenext expect that his image will be obliterated from the face of Mt. Rushmore, as well??

      • sg says:

        No way…it is in a sane state, where virtual signaling isn’t tolerated…and is known for the BS it is!

    5. William Meister says:

      I was born and raised a Westsider, went to PS 166 and Joan of Arc JHS- Then on to Stuyvesant HS. In the 5th or 6th grade a highlight field trip was to TR’s Childhood home, I made many trips to the Museum and to the Planetarium. I am sad to see that this statue is being removed as part of the Cancel Culture now in favor. It reminds me of the way the Soviets removed statues, pictures, and names from history. Not a good omen of things to come.

      • Jean says:

        I agree. I too went to PS166 and classes would go as well to the museum. I used to take my sketch pad there quite often.
        Interesting to see no one comments about the hall named for TR. maybe they want to remove that too? History can NEVER be erased. Taking a statue away won’t change history. I love that statue and I see the Native American and African American as guides for TR. Not as subservient as some proclaim.

    6. Lia says:

      Exactly – we don’t deserve that sort of disrespect on display in our wonderfully diverse city. Let’s enjoy a great statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of a favorite NYC museum, without the obvious racist symbolism bumming us all out.

      • Rosalind Gnatt says:

        I do declare! Some of these comments, honoring our nation’s “Noble Past” brings me right back to the longings of my racist KKK, good Southern Baptist relations, who when I was a child, used to sit around and bemoan when the “good ol’ Darkies knew their place.
        That statue has creep me out since I first saw it – a monument to white supremacy.

    7. UWSer says:

      Some have said the statue would be OK if it were Roosevelt only. But, it now seems problematic that any statue is elevated on a pedestal, because the elevation implies the depicted figure’s superiority above all humans of all races at ground level. Rhetorically, why should any of us be forced, literally or metaphorically, to look up to anyone?

      Perhaps WSR should file this under Absurdity not Art.

      • Carlos says:

        Why are you putting your own biases about racial superiority on this? Roosevelt was in charge – he’s on the horse. He is dressed like white men dressed at the time. The others are dressed like people of their cultures dressed at the time. They probably thought Roosevelt was an idiot for wearing such an outfit when their simple outfits made more sense – what would you rather be wearing on a hot summer day?

        If artwork was made depicting the Obama administration, Obama would be in the primary position and Biden and others would be in secondary positions. Is this a statement on racial superiority?

        Ironically, I think it is white people who are more offended by this than those of the minority groups depicted. Because they think they know what is best for everyone.

        The woke know-it-alls are destroying America. And they are so self-confident and lacking in awareness that they don’t even realize it.

        • Jean says:

          I agree.
          This city is crumbling like Chicago, and Portland and. Ali for it, etc.
          We need to save our cities and country. It’s becoming more tyrannical.

    8. carl g silverman says:

      WSR, Teddy deserves better. its really about revenge. White Lives Dont Matter! what next? remove him from Mount Rushmore also in The Dakotas? insane. Carl Silverman (NYC)

      • Will says:

        You do know what Mt. Rushmore was before they carved the faces into the side of it right?

        • carl g silverman says:

          Mount Rushmore a big rock among many. btw…Teddy Roosevelt a Deputy Sheriff in The Dakotas. i beleve he was respected by the local tribes. a LOT more than George Custer? be careful who you choose as bad guys.

    9. Barbara Kaufman says:

      I understand the Black and Native American discomfort. However, if we remove everything that bothers people without having them explained and discussed, who will decide and what will be left? This move will leave New Yorkers and visitors with no focus to discuss anything in case they were unaware. How about noting ‘This relationship between people should have been equal and the point of view depicted in this statue is not that of today or how we would want.’

      • Jay says:

        It *has* been explained and discussed for years, and that process has been documented there at the site for quite some time now. This the outcome of that process, and despite the sadly predictable leanings of this comment section it is to most people a quite reasonable one.

      • Carlos says:

        I don’t think it is black and native American discomfort. I think it is white do-gooders who think they are helping minorities. But many of these minority people wish the white do-gooders would just mind their own business and/or find a more meaningful way to help than removing a statue.

        But removing a statue allows the woke folk to pat themselves on the back more, so that is what they do. Oy vey.

    10. dc says:

      A gain for the Dakotas, and a loss for NYC.

    11. Pedestrian says:

      The removal of the Teddy Roosevelt statue from the front of the Natural Museum is wrong and is another example of the craziness that afflicts our country. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive for his time. He was a corruption fighter and worked hard to bring the trusts…similar to current multinational corporations…under control. He as the Trust buster! He was not a racist. He was the first president to invite a black man to dinner in the White House. Booker T. Washington was his guest and one of his policy advisers. https://www.npr.org/2012/05/14/152684575/teddy-roosevelts-shocking-dinner-with-washington

      He was the founder of our National Park System.
      One could go on and on about his accomplishments.
      I’m sure many people will have criticisms but I would remind them that no human is perfect and that his accomplishments did good things for this country. We could do with a bit of Teddy Roosevelt in our politics right now.

      He was a Republican and I am a proud liberal Democrat. I’m sure we would differ on a number of issues but in 1900 you’d be had pressed to find someone who was more progressive that he and willing to act on his beliefs.

    12. Bill Williams says:

      Not sure what’s worse this capitulation to the woke crowd or the capitulation to the rich that resulted in ruining the Hall Of Gems.

    13. michael says:

      It is human behavior to distract ourselves from bigger issue with smaller inconsequential ones. The remove of this statue statue is a keen example of this phenomenon.

      I will forever miss this majestic statue despite the discrepancy it portrays.

    14. Carmen L. de Jesus says:

      The statue depicting the idea and falseness of white supremacy is as a work of art an amazing piece. Historically it is a reminder of our country’s disgraceful history. Therefore it is more suited in an American museum that can honestly deal with the telling of this country’s ugly past.

    15. Charles says:

      You cannot, and should NOT rewrite history. It is what it is, and to hide it is to obliviate it. See Russia and China.

    16. Lilia Morselli says:

      When the USA was formed a great people came to help it and
      to release them from their horrible governments. The USA has
      helped many peoples of this planet. The young Americans of
      today are over-educated and spoiled. They will suffer greatly
      for what they are doing to this God Blessed USA

    17. Karen says:

      I will not miss the statue. It really does represent people of color looking up to, or being below, or supporting, however you want to describe it, a white person, albeit Roosevelt was a strong and great leader much of the time. If it were the other way around, for example, if Martin Luther King were on the horse and there were two white people below him, holding his horse’s reigns and looking up to him, I think it would make you uncomfortable over time, and you would feel differently. Because so many children of all races go to the wonderful AMNH, this negative stereotype should not be the first thing they see. It this becomes embedded, unconsciously, on their psyches.

      • Bob Lamm says:

        Well said, Karen. Thank you for these comments.

      • Lisa says:

        Neither of the men flanking Roosevelt were looking up at him. They were staring resolutely forward. Their physical strength and beauty made Roosevelt look like a dweeb. Roosevelt is the one who looked bad in comparison.

    18. Lizzie says:

      When New Orleans was considering removal of its problematic monuments, Mitch Landrieu asked those who objected to consider what a child would think of the statues he or she saw.

      What would a black child think of the TR statue? He’d see a nearly naked black man walking beside a fully clothed white man on horseback. What would you say to him when he asked why the man who looked like him was walking, and why wasn’t he wearing clothes? There really isn’t any explanation that isn’t demeaning.

      TR’s importance to museum history is worth celebrating, but it doesn’t require this particular statue as a memorial to his contributions. Just inside the doors is the well-loved statue of him sitting on a bench. When a child sees that one, there’s plenty you can say about the man, without having to justify an outdated and offensive allegory.

    19. Ted Baskins says:

      Why not replace it with a more timely statue – say, Stalin, Lenin, or Mao?

    20. Ralph says:

      As a person of color I’ve always been offended by this statue. Good riddance. Everybody wining like there aren’t a ton of other non racist statues in the city. *eyeroll*

      • Sandra G. says:

        I was never offended by the statue. I’m a person of color, that thinks this “wokeness” is extremely troubling. What has really been accomplished? This is just grandstanding. The mentally ill,homeless,& addicts need help. Crime is out of control. And people are concerned about a statue? Total craziness.

    21. UWSconcerned says:

      Ok, so now that the statute is gone can people start to focus on the rampant homelessness, open drug use and general decline in quality of life that has consistently escalated over the past 6 years or so?

    22. Jay says:

      That statue looked *absurdly* out of place in 2021, and the folks reaching for ways to deny that are the outlandish/unreasonable ones here.

      • Just an observer says:

        All works of art created in previous eras look out of place today Travel around the world. Europe will look like a desert if you only leave art that is relevant to today’s politics. This is the wrong approach to view culture and cultural treasures. And this is exactly what will cause the fall of this great country. We have witnessed it after the Russian revolution and Chinese cultural revolution, which followed by decades of intellectual decline.

    23. Suzanne says:

      As a native western North Dakotan who went to Medora every summer as a tourist nearly every year dueing my first 21 years of life – and now as a 7 year UWS resident – this creates a multitude of emotions for me. Teddy is revered in western ND – and over 3 months during the summer – every summer – over 124,000 people visit tiny Medora as a historic, geological, and remote national park with a quirky nightly outdoor variety show and musical. Indigenous tribal lands are not far – but in a rural and Republican part of the country – the controversy of this statue may be lost forever.

    24. Preston Lawrence Pittman says:

      I lived on West 86th Street and visited this museum dozens of times every year. I will never go there again. Without Teddy Roosevelt on his horse, it won’t be the right museum.

    25. Marc Lerro says:

      Lucky Medora. I look forward to visiting the statue there in 2022. Who needs a handsome statute in New York, anyway? Glad history has been corrected. Now we can move on, right?

    26. Bob Lamm says:

      Good riddance to this racist statue.

    27. Allyson Taylor says:

      Pathetic and sad. Deal with hustiry..learn from it but don’t erase it. The woke world is nuts and very stupid.

    28. Common sense says:

      Ridiculous.

    29. Jacob Eisenberg says:

      Never under estimate the stupidity of the American people

    30. John E. says:

      Feel better?

      A lack of affordable housing, a failing public school system, police brutality and poor health care are the real problems that need to be addressed. Do you think removing a statue will make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering? They couldn’t care less.

      Wake up!

    31. ccridernyc says:

      Removing the statue is disgraceful nonsense.

    32. Ed Meyer says:

      Let me get this straight? Blacks and Indians are offended by a statue of Teddy Roosevelt? Why? What is the history of the statue? I doubt that anyone intended at the time this statue was made,to belittle or show any disrespect for these people. It only show how out of control the anti racism groups have gotten .

      • Brandon says:

        If you are seriously posing these questions in good faith, there are plenty of resources available that would provide you with answers.

        I would start with the AMNH’s own statue exhibition, a version of which is on their website: https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/addressing-the-theodore-roosevelt-statue

      • John E. says:

        @Ed Meyer

        Here is a quote from John Russell Pope – the architect of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial:

        “In the center of the terrace…will arise a polished granite pedestal bearing an equestrian statue of Roosevelt with two accompanying figures on foot, one representing the American Indian and the other the primitive African. This heroic group…will symbolize the fearless leadership, the explorer, benefactor and educator….”—From a description of the architect’s design approved by the Memorial Commission, 1928

        And please note below quote:

        “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, emphasized by the animals on the parapet reliefs.”—Harriet F. Senie, Director, M.A. Art History, Art Museum Studies, The City College of New York

        Of course no one cares to do some research on the original intent of this statue before removing it.

        “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

    33. Dan says:

      As a fan of classical sculpture I’m sorry to see it go. Contemporary sculpture is very poor.

    34. 88keysCheryl says:

      Although Medora has a tiny year-round population, it is a big tourist site. See my Fargo cousin’s response: “It’s not controversial at all in ND. We are happy to have it. The TR Library in Medora is a $130 million effort, fully funded with over $80 Million in private donations. The design of the building is very much in keeping with the geography of the area. Medora is itself quite a summer tourist attraction, about the only one in ND. The library will add to the attraction, perhaps make it more of a year-around spot to stop. We get there every other year or so. The scenery is spectacular, and it’s not every day that you can be driving in your car and be surrounded by a herd of bison…but that’s what happens in the TR National Park.”

    35. G says:

      Not sure this solves anything..move from one place to another? It is still on display for public viewing

    36. Penelope says:

      I am saddened by the removal of this elegant and beautiful statue. The slave and Indian are of equal height, their bodies strong, upright, heads are not cowering. I never saw this statue, as negative but in reverence to Teddy who respected and protected the land – not denying our history.

    37. Ian Alterman says:

      I don’t generally buy into the right’s “cancel culture” argument, but this, and the removal of Jefferson from City Hall, are cancel culture at its worst. We have become uber-P.C., and it is going to destroy us.

      • SadforUWS says:

        Cancel culture is real. Woke-ism is real. These are tools set out to destroy this country.