USC Removing John Wayne Exhibit After Student Protests

Hollywood Reporter reports Students and alumni began protesting the exhibit last fall, with one banner reading “by keeping Wayne’s legacy alive, SCA is endorsing white supremacy.”

USC’s School of Cinematic Arts will remove its John Wayne exhibit after months of students and alumni protesting keeping such a tribute to the actor endorsed white supremacy. Protests over the exhibit followed resurfaced racist comments by the actor in a 1971 Playboy magazine interview.

The removal of the exhibit, dedicated to the actor who attended the university and played football in the 1920s, was announced Friday by Evan Hughes, the assistant dean of diversity and inclusion.

“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. Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed.”

Hughes noted that materials from the exhibit, created in 2012, will be moved to the school’s Cinematic Arts Library for research and scholarship, along with other Hollywood artifacts to “allow scholarship to continue on the role John Wayne’s films played in the history of cinema.”

Students and alumni began protesting the exhibit last fall, with one student creating a banner that read “by keeping Wayne’s legacy alive, SCA is endorsing white supremacy.” In December, school officials responded by not removing the exhibit but instead creating a space to expand on Indigenous filmmaking, feminism, and critical race theory, according to the school’s Daily Trojan newspaper.

Criticism and protests over the actor were prompted after comments Wayne made in a Playboy interview resurfaced, in which he made bigoted statements against Black people, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.

“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 said in the interview.

Per TCO, Three days after the Orange County Democrats passed a resolution calling for the renaming of John Wayne Airport over the late actor’s “white supremacist, anti-LGBT, and anti-Indigenous views,” the Hollywood star’s youngest son came to his defense.

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Fox News reported John Wayne’s son is speaking out after California Democrats in Orange County recently demanded that the county’s John Wayne Airport be renamed and all likenesses of Wayne be removed from the airport, over “racist and bigoted statements” made by the American icon decades ago.

The resolution, which passed on Friday, is asking the county’s board of supervisors to restore the name to Orange County Airport.

In a statement to Fox News on Monday, Ethan Wayne said: “Let me make one thing clear — John Wayne was not a racist. I know that term is casually tossed around these days, but I take it very seriously. I also understand how we got to this point.

“There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger,” Ethan continued, referencing the late actor’s 1971 interview with Playboy. “They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”

In the interview at the time, Wayne is quoted saying, “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.” He also said he felt no remorse for the subjugation of Native Americans and called movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” perverted.

Ethan, who is Wayne’s youngest son and president of John Wayne Enterprises, went on to say in his statement on Monday: “The truth is, as we have seen in papers from his archives, he did not support ‘white supremacy’ in any way and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence.

“Those who knew him, knew he judged everyone as an individual and believed everyone deserved an equal opportunity,” Ethan added. “He called out bigotry when he saw it. He hired and worked with people of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations. John Wayne stood for the very best for all of us — a society that doesn’t discriminate against anyone seeking the American dream.”

Ethan said that it “would be an injustice to judge him based on a single interview, as opposed to the full picture of who he was.”

“The current focus on social justice is absolutely valid and necessary. But attempts by some to use it for political advantage distract from real opportunities for reform,” he said.

The 58-year-old also explained what his father would have done if he was still alive today.

“One thing we know – if John Wayne were here today, he would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people,” Ethan said. “He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do. He would stand for everyone’s right to protest and work toward change.”