In the wake of the white supremacist-fueled horror in Charlottesville, there has been a renewed, nationwide push to take down monuments paying tribute to the Confederacy. This is welcome, of course, but Confederates aren’t the only racists this country still seems to inexplicably venerate. And there are many other deeply offensive statues across America whose place in society should be reconsidered.
Of course, taking down a statue does not erase someone from history. They can still be put in history books and taught in classrooms and movies, and we can learn from their mistakes.
Cities like New York are beginning to rethink the people they’ve chosen to honor. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will take about three months to review its property for “symbols of hate” so it can remove them. He’s already started.
So, for your consideration, here is a list of non-Confederate statues that either memorialize racists or are racist in their depiction of people—or both! It’s not comprehensive because America is too racist for that. Maybe we should consider taking these down too.
Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle, New York City
We talk about this every year on Indigenous People’s Day, but in case you forgot, I think the History Channel sums up the destruction of Native peoples’ lives quite well:
There are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled “Indians”: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas. Historians have uncovered extensive evidence of the damage wreaked by Columbus and his teams, leading to an outcry over emphasis placed upon studying and celebrating him in schools and public celebrations.
Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building, Philadelphia
Former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo was well-known for his bigoted beliefs against the LGBTQ community and black people.
As an opinion writer wrote for Philly.com:
His hostility toward African Americans was equally well-known. Along with his casual use of the N-word to describe the citizens he was meant to protect, his police force was known for targeting black residents and black bodies, beating suspects in custody with impunity, siccing angry dogs on black student protesters, forcing Black Panther activists to stand naked on the street in a mass arrest. He turned the police force into a weapon against black communities, endorsing racial profiling and stop-and-frisk.
Recently, the statue in question has been under tight surveillance after a man threw eggs at the statue and placed a sign that said “SHAME ON PRESIDENT TRUMP” around the statue’s neck, NBC Philadelphia reported.
Dr. James Marion Sims, Central Park, Manhattan
According to the NYC Parks page about the monument in Sims’ honor, he is heralded as the “father of modern gynecology.”
It also goes into a detailed account of how he developed his medical practices: by experimenting on three enslaved women–Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy–without anesthesia.
Orville Hubbard, McFadden Ross House, Dearborn, Michigan
This one has been moved around a bunch over the years, probably because its subject is quite controversial. And now critics want the statue to be removed for good.
Hubbard, the former mayor of Dearborn, was a shameless supporter of segregation who is often quoted as having said “I’m not a racist, I just hate those black bastards.” And in case his agenda was unclear, when he campaigned, he used the slogan “Keep the Negroes out of Dearborn.” Charming!
Pioneer Monument, San Francisco
The statue, which contains four piers flanking a central column, was supposed to commemorate the history of California, which of course includes the abuse and mistreatment of Native Americans at the Catholic missions.
The New York Times reported in 1996 (!!!) that Native Americans were calling it “an offensive tribute to the genocidal conquest of the West.” The Art Commission tried to compromise with a plaque that admitted that the Native American population died from “disease, armed attacks and mistreatment” during the missions, the Times reported. But, as then-President of the San Francisco Art Commission Stanlee Gatti told the paper, “retribution for Native Americans is not going to be granted by a plaque.” The statue is still there today.
Theodore Roosevelt, American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan
Last year, over 200 activists covered this statue—which depicts Roosevelt riding a horse and flanked by a man in a Native American headdress and a black man who, as Splinter editor-in-chief Dodai Stewart points out, is wearing a blanket and nothing else for some reason—in protest.
“[The statue] is an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans,” an activist named Kandia Crazy Horse said at the protest, according to the Village Voice. “A monument that appears to glorify racial hierarchies should be retired from public view. We demand that City Council members vote to remove this monument to racial conquest.”
Calvin Griffith, Target Field, Minneapolis
Griffith, who owned the Washington Senators and then the Minnesota Twins for almost 30 years, allegedly segregated the team by race, according to reporting by Vice Sports.
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said in 1978, according to the Star Tribune. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ‘rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”
Stephen Foster, Schenley Plaza, Pittsburgh
This statue features a white man–composer Foster–sitting over a black man known as Ned, who is wearing raggedy clothes and is playing a banjo. If the racist depiction of a black man isn’t enough for you, this one gets worse with context.
A city commission is looking into complaints about the statue.
When the monument to so-called “master builder” Moses, the man responsible for many of New York City’s parks and roads, returned to Fordham’s campus, two contributing writers for the campus paper explained why they opposed it:
“Robert Moses, Master Builder,” reads the statue recently erected on our outdoor plaza, but, for many communities of color, Robert Moses was a master destroyer. The very campus we stand on came at the expense of people of color. Beginning in 1958, the old Lincoln Square neighborhood, called San Juan Hill, an area of predominantly black and Puerto Rican residents, was cleared and bulldozed in order to make room for a myriad of sites, including Lincoln Center and our campus. In total, about 3,000 families were forced to leave their homes. Moses’ “slum-clearance” projects took place all over the city, including the South Bronx, meaning that tens of thousands of people of color were displaced. Yes, Moses built a mecca for the arts, both the Cross Bronx Expressway and the Henry Hudson Parkway, but at what cost? Is an opera worth more than 3,000 families of color?
John Chivington, Colorado Capitol, Denver
Chivington may have fought against Confederate soldiers, but was also quite racist.
“Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!” he once said according to a number of sources. “I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians.” If that wasn’t enough, other sources quote him elaborating in case his message wasn’t already clear: “Kill and scalp all, big and little. Nits make lice.”
He went on to kill over 150 Native Americans at the Sand Creek Massacre. Most of the victims were women, children, or the elderly, Smithsonian magazine reported.
Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive. Do you have a statue of a known racist, or an offensively rendered piece of public sculpture, in your community or that you’ve seen on your travels? Let’s talk about it in the comments.