fb-pixel

A running list of controversial statues, symbols, and names under scrutiny amid nationwide reckoning with racial history

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History in New York. The equestrian memorial to Roosevelt, which has long prompted objections as a symbol of Colonialism and racism, will be coming down.
The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History in New York. The equestrian memorial to Roosevelt, which has long prompted objections as a symbol of Colonialism and racism, will be coming down.Spencer Platt/Getty

Across the US, states are grappling with pushback regarding a trove of monuments and place names that many argue are ahistorical, degrading, and inappropriate amid a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice and benevolent forms of white supremacy.

From the Christopher Columbus statue in the North End, to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, lawmakers are reconsidering controversial symbols and namesakes, and in many cases, have taken active steps to change them.

Here is a running list of some of the symbols and monuments under scrutiny, and how state officials are responding.

The Mississippi state flag

Advertisement



The Mississippi state flag flew outside the state Capitol building in Jackson last week.
The Mississippi state flag flew outside the state Capitol building in Jackson last week.Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday evening to retire the last state flag in the United States that includes the Confederate battle emblem.

His office announced a signing ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion, two days after a broad coalition of legislators passed the landmark measure to change the flag.

As soon as the Republican governor signed the bill, the flag lost its official status. Mississippi has come under increasing pressure to change its flag since protests against racial injustice have focused attention on Confederate symbols.

Now, a commission will design a new flag, one that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, to be sent to voters later.

Abraham Lincoln Emancipation Memorial in Park Square, Boston

Nearly 150 years after its debut here, the statue has become a local flashpoint in the nation’s latest reckoning with public art portraying figures from the Civil War and its aftermath.
Nearly 150 years after its debut here, the statue has become a local flashpoint in the nation’s latest reckoning with public art portraying figures from the Civil War and its aftermath.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Boston Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the Emancipation Memorial in Park Square on Tuesday night. The bronze statue depicts Abraham Lincoln standing over a formerly enslaved man and was donated to the city in 1879 to celebrate Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves. It is a replica of one in DC.

Advertisement



The monument has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as protests against anti-Black racism has led communities to reexamine monuments of slave traders and Civil War generals, as well as those that demean Black men and women.

Christopher Columbus statue, North End, Boston

The vandalized statue of Christopher Columbus in the North End.
The vandalized statue of Christopher Columbus in the North End.Tim Bradbury/Getty

The often-vandalized statue of Christopher Columbus was found decapitated in early June, and was put in storage for the time being. The monument might be removed permanently as city officials and residents discuss whether the controversial explorer’s likeness should occupy a prominent position on the waterfront.

“We don’t condone vandalism, and it needs to stop,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. However, he added, “given the conversations that we’re having right now in our city and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue.”

The statue will be in storage temporarily while the damage is assessed.

Christopher Columbus statue, Providence

The boarded-up statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence, with paint splattered on wood.
The boarded-up statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence, with paint splattered on wood.Edward Fitzpatrick/The Boston Globe

The controversial Christopher Columbus statue in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood was also placed in storage until city leaders figure out whether to move it to a new location or permanently remove it from public property.

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

The seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in the State House.
The seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in the State House.Rhode Island Secretary of State's Office

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order June 22 to remove “Providence Plantations” from the full state name in official documents, agency websites, and on employee pay stubs.

The state Legislature and state treasurer also announced they would be removing those words from official documents because they conjure up images of slavery.

Advertisement



Theodore Roosevelt statue, Museum of Natural History, NYC

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History in New York. The equestrian memorial to Roosevelt, which has long prompted objections as a symbol of Colonialism and racism, will be coming down.
The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History in New York. The equestrian memorial to Roosevelt, which has long prompted objections as a symbol of Colonialism and racism, will be coming down.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback and flanked by a Native American man and an African man, which has presided over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History since 1940, is coming down.

The decision was proposed by the museum and agreed to by officials of New York City, which owns the building and property.

For many, the “Equestrian” statue at the museum’s Central Park West entrance had come to symbolize a painful legacy of Colonial expansion and racial discrimination.

John Wayne Airport, Orange County, Calif.

A bronze statue of late actor John Wayne stands before a four-story high United States flag at John Wayne Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, Calif.
A bronze statue of late actor John Wayne stands before a four-story high United States flag at John Wayne Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, Calif.Reed Saxon/Associated Press

Leaders of Orange County’s Democratic Party are pushing to drop film legend John Wayne’s name, statue, and other likenesses from the county’s airport because of the actor’s racist and bigoted comments.

According to the Los Angeles Times, officials passed an emergency resolution earlier this week and are calling on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to restore the airport’s original name: Orange County Airport.

In a 1971 Playboy magazine interview, Wayne makes bigoted statements against Black people, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.MARK MAKELA/NYT

Princeton University in New Jersey will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges, university President Christopher Eisgruber said June 27..

The university’s board of trustees found that Wilson’s “racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college where scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms.”

Advertisement



The decision contrasted with a vote by Princeton’s trustees in 2016 to keep Wilson’s name on campus buildings and programs, despite student protests that led to a review of his legacy there.

Andrew Jackson statue, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

Protesters attempted to topple a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House.
Protesters attempted to topple a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House.Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post

Protesters June 23 tried to pull down a statue of former president Andrew Jackson near the White House. On June 27, federal authorities charged Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine with destruction of federal property.

Judd was arrested June 26 and appeared in Superior Court of the District of Columbia on June 27, authorities said. The other three have not been apprehended. The FBI and the US Park Police have been investigating the incident.

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed,” Acting US Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement.

Previous Globe coverage and material from wire services were used in this report.



Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @brittbowker.