Racism: How Statues Are Falling Around the World

Statues and monuments that have long honored racist figures are being boxed up, spray-painted — or beheaded. 


Christopher Columbus in Miami.
Carl Juste/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

Christopher Columbus in Miami.Carl Juste/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

The statues have stood for more than a century in some places. Some are cast in bronze, others carved in stone. And all over the world, as protests against racism and police violence have renewed attention on legacies of injustices, people have been asking: Does this statue still need to be here?

The answer from some protesters has been a resounding no.

In England, a 17th-century slave trader was dumped into Bristol Harbor. In Antwerp, a Belgian king who brutalized Congo was burned and ultimately removed. And in the United States, more than a dozen statues have been toppled, including several Confederate figures. 

In dozens more cities, those that still stand have been marked with graffiti, challenged anew with petitions and protests, or scheduled for removal.

Here’s a look at what’s happened to some of them.

In Tennessee, a newspaper publisher was among the first to go.

Kimberlee Kruesi/Associated Press

A statue of Edward Ward Carmack stood at the State Capitol in Nashville for more than 90 years before it was toppled on May 30. Carmack was a lawmaker and newspaper editor in Nashville and Memphis in the early 1900s. He endorsed the lynching of three black men who were trying to open a grocery store, and incited a mob to attack the newspaper editor, journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.

Carmack was shot dead in 1908 by the son of a political rival. His statue was erected in 1927.

After the statue came down, protesters draped a banner over its base declaring the area Ida B. Wells Plaza in its place.

In Richmond, Va., Robert E. Lee got a new look.

Steve Helber/Associated Press

On June 8, an image of George Floyd, whose death in police custody in Minneapolis helped set off the protests against police violence, was projected on the base of the statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, which towers over the city’s Monument Avenue. Days later, a pride flag was projected onto the statue.

Eze Amos/Getty Images

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, has ordered the removal of the statue under a new state law that goes into effect on July 1, which will allow cities to decide for themselves the fates of such monuments. (A judge later blocked the removal.) The City Council said this month it had the votes to remove other statues on Monument Avenue as well.

Protesters in Richmond have also toppled a Jefferson Davis statuethrown one of Christopher Columbus in a laketoppled the Howitzers Monument, which featured a Confederate artilleryman, and torn down a statue of William Carter Wickham, a Confederate cavalry commander.

@Thicketoftrash, via Associated Press
Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch, via Associated Press

In St. Paul, Minn., and elsewhere, Columbus came down.

Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio, via Associated Press

On June 10, less than a day after the Columbus statue in Richmond came down, a 10-foot bronze sculpture of Columbus was toppled outside the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., after a group of protesters tied ropes around the statue’s neck and yanked it from its pedestal.

The Capitol is about 10 miles from where a Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

In Boston, the head of a statue of Columbus in the city’s North End neighborhood was removed the same day.

In Miami and Kenosha, Wis., statues of Columbus were painted. In Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said the explorer’s statue on the south side of City Hall would be removed and placed in storage. The Columbus Dispatch reported that there were also plans to remove the Columbus statue outside Columbus State Community College.

Race and Policing ›

Recent Changes Sparked by the Protests

Updated June 22, 2020


In Washington, Andrew Jackson still stands.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On June 22, protesters tried to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jacksonin Lafayette Park near the White House. After police officers with riot shields and pepper spray moved in, the statue of Jackson on horseback ultimately remained upright that night.

Jackson, the seventh president, owned slaves and put into place policies that forced Native Americans from their land, with some 15,000 people dying on the Trail of Tears.

In England, slave traders were removed.

John Sibley/Reuters
Ben Birchall/Press Association, via Associated Press

Protesters toppled a bronze statue of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbor on June 7, forcing Britain to consider how to confront its racist history.

Colston, a merchant, profited richly from slavery, transporting at least 80,000 people from West Africa to the Caribbean. Almost 20,000 of them died on the voyages. Now that the statue, erected in 1895, is gone, critics want to replace it with a statue of Paul Stephenson, a black worker who led a boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company in 1963 to force it to end discriminatory hiring practices against minority workers.

Two days later, the statue of Robert Milligan outside of the Museum of London Docklands was removed by the local authorities. He was a slave trader who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned two sugar plantations and 526 slaves in Jamaica. The museum said the statue was problematic for “whitewashing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity.”

King Leopold II was burned in Antwerp.

Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A bust of Belgian King Leopold II that had been painted red was removed by a city worker in Auderghem, near Brussels, on June 12.

Another statue of Leopold had been removed from a public square in Antwerp three days earlier.

More than 80,000 people have signed a petition to remove all statues of Leopold from Belgium, as the country grapples with a leading figure of its colonial past. His forces seized Congo in the late 19th century and ran an exploitative regime that led to the deaths of millions.

In Dallas, a statue of a Texas Ranger was put in storage.

Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

In Dallas, construction crews recently removed a 12-foot-tall bronze statue of a Texas Ranger, long seen as a mythical figure in state folklore, amid concerns over historical episodes of police brutality and racism within the law enforcement agency. It had stood in the main lobby of the city’s Love Field airport since 1963.

Christopher J. Perry, the aviation department spokesman, said the statue would be put in storage and its fate would be decided by the Office of Arts and Culture.

Jefferson Davis was moved from the Kentucky Capitol.

Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader, via Associated Press

On June 13, a statue of Jefferson Davis was removed from the Capitol Rotunda, where it had stood for more than 80 years, commemorating the president of the Confederate States of America. (Though Davis was born in Kentucky, the state declared itself officially neutral at the start of the Civil War.)

In New York, Theodore Roosevelt will be removed.

Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

A statue of the 26th president that has stood at the Museum of Natural History since 1940 will be removed, officials announced on June 21. The objection was not to Roosevelt himself — whose family helped found the museum — but to the symbolism of the Native American man and the African man who stand beside him.

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