John Wayne exhibit to be removed following student protests over racist remarks

Adam White
·1-min read
John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 film version of Charles Portis' novel: Corbis
John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 film version of Charles Portis' novel: Corbis

An exhibition dedicated to classic film star John Wayne will be removed following student protests over the actor’s history of racist remarks.

The exhibit, at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, featured photos and memorabilia from Wayne’s film career, but has been dogged by controversy since it was installed in 2012.

In a statement, the school’s assistant dean of diversity and inclusion Evan Hughes confirmed that the exhibit would be placed in the university’s archives.

“Conversations about systemic racism in our cultural institutions along with the recent global, civil uprising by the Black Lives Matter movement require that we consider the role our school can play as a change maker in promoting anti-racist cultural values and experiences,” Hughes said. “Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne exhibit will be removed.”

Wayne, who attended the school in the 1920s and died in 1979, made racist remarks in an interview with Playboy Magazine in 1971. Quotes from the interview resurfaced in 2019, and led to a number of campus protests against the exhibit.

The Playboy interview quoted Wayne as saying: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.”

He also said that there was nothing wrong with settlers stealing Native American land, adding that “great numbers of people needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves”.

The Wayne exhibit will be replaced by a new one that incorporates “elements of Indigenous filmmaking, feminism and critical race theory through interactive displays,” said campus newspaper The Daily Trojan.