The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts has announced that an exhibit dedicated to John Wayne will be pulled from campus in response to student protests regarding his legacy. Wayne’s past has been the subject of scrutiny for decades since a 1971 Playboy Magazine interview where the actor and filmmaker made controversial comments about minorities and people of color. Recently, there were petitions to change the name of Southern California’s John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
“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 experiences,” Evan Hughes, USC’s assistant dean of diversity and inclusion, said in a statement. “Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed.”
The exhibit has been targeted by student protesters since last fall on the grounds that the showcase condones white supremacy and bigotry. USC expanded the exhibit by opening it up to filmmakers of color, as well as feminist filmmakers. The exhibit was created in 2012 in recognition of Wayne’s past as a USC alum. He attended the school in the 1920s on a football scholarship before making his mark on Hollywood. According to the school, the contents of the exhibit will be moved to a library to allow for continued scholarship. See the statement from USC below.
With the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Wayne’s history, along with countless other historical figures, has been called into question. Comments in the Playboy Magazine interview include “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.” Wayne also admitted to not “hunting for positions” for people of color on his movies. He also said, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
In the interview, Wayne also endorsed Americans taking over Native American land, stating “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” Wayne also called “Midnight Cowboy” “a story of two fags.”
Announcement concerning the John Wayne exhibit: pic.twitter.com/8vg5tUUjCj
— USC Cinematic Arts (@USCCinema) July 10, 2020