The John Wayne exhibit in the School of Cinematic Arts will be removed as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, SCA Assistant Dean of Diversity & Inclusion Evan Hughes announced Friday. Hughes said the school intends to remove it before the start of the fall semester, though the definite timeline is uncertain.
“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 antiracist cultural values and experience,” Hughes wrote in an email to the SCA community.
The exhibit, which honors Wayne’s 152-film history with displays of costumes, personal items, film clips and photos, was installed June 2012.
In September, students, led by rising senior Eric Plant, protested for the removal of the exhibit, accusing the school of “endorsing white supremacy” by dedicating an exhibit to the racist actor. While the school said it would consider the removal, it ultimately decided in December to keep the Wayne exhibit but convert the space into one that discusses the “complex narrative” of the American West as told in cinema.
“In the events that have happened this summer, the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, I just think that we’re in a different moment than we were even six months ago, and I think it’s important that SCA really take a stand and say that in order to reinforce our anti-racist agenda, we need to take certain steps to kind of ensure that we’re modeling the best behavior, and so that’s why we changed the decision to do that,” Hughes told the Daily Trojan.
Controversy regarding Wayne came up after a1971 Playboy magazine interview revealed his support of white supremacy and anti-Black racism.
“I believe in white supremacy,” Wayne said. “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks.”
The exhibit materials will be housed in the school’s archives. While they may not be accessible to the public, they will remain usable for future reference and research, according to the statement.
“Placing them within the proper archival and research context will allow scholarship to continue on the rule that John Wayne’s films played in the history of cinema,” Hughes wrote.
The decision also follows President Carol Folt’s June announcement of the removal of former USC president and known eugenicist Rufus von KleinSmid from The Center for International and Public Affairs.