The decision, proposed by the museum and agreed to by New York City, which owns the building and property, came after years of objections from activists and at a time when the killing of George Floyd has initiated an urgent nationwide conversation about racism.
For many, the “Equestrian” statue at the museum’s Central Park West entrance had come to symbolise a painful legacy of colonial expansion and racial discrimination.
“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,” the museum’s president, Ellen V Futter, said in an interview. “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,” she added, “the time has come to move it.”
The museum took action amid a heated national debate over the appropriateness of statues or monuments that first focused on Confederate symbols like Robert E. Lee and has now moved on to a wider arc of figures, from Christopher Columbus to Thomas Jefferson.
In many of those cases, the calls for removal were made by protesters who say the images are too offensive to stand as monuments to American history. The decision about the Roosevelt statue is different, made by a museum that, like others, had previously defended — and preserved — such portraits as relics of their time and that however objectionable, could perhaps serve to educate. It was then seconded by the city, which had the final say.
© 2020 New York Times News Service