John Wayne Exhibit at USC to Be Removed Amid Airport Controversy

by Hunter Miller

After months of student and alumni protests, the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts plans to remove the John Wayne Exhibit. Demands for the removal of the exhibit came after the iconic actor’s racist remarks in a 1971 Playboy magazine interview resurfaced.

The Oscar winner attended and played football for the University in the 1920s. Evan Hughes, the assistant dean of diversity and inclusion, announced the removal of the exhibit on Friday. “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,” Hughes said. “Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed.”

Protests against the exhibit started last fall. Those opposing the exhibit claim the school endorsed white supremacy “by keeping Wayne’s legacy alive.” At first, the school responded by expanding the program to aid Indigenous filmmaking, feminism, and critical race theory. However, the school elected not to remove the exhibit at the time.

USC created the exhibit in 2012. Hughes says the university now plans to move the exhibit items to the Cinematic Arts Library for research and scholarship. Hughes says the Hollywood artifacts can “allow scholarship to continue on the role John Wayne’s films played in the history of cinema.” 

John Wayne Controversial Comments in ‘Playboy’

During an interview with Playboy, Wayne made controversial remarks about Black people, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community. Wayne commented on white supremacy and Black people in positions of leadership. “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.”

Wayne also discussed the mistreatment of Native Americans in the U.S. He said, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them.” He also added that he thought “the Indians were selfishly trying to keep [new land] for themselves.”

In addition to the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the airport in Orange County, CA recently removed Wayne’s name. Earlier this year, the Democratic Party demanded the local airport remove his name, statue, and likeness. In 1979, the airport gave itself the name, John Wayne Airport, in the actor’s honor. The Democratic Party of Orange County suggests renaming the airport to Orange County Airport.

Wayne died of cancer in 1979. He was one of Hollywood’s more conservative actors. Before his passing, Wayne served on the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American ideals.

[H/T Hollywood Reporter]