The Racist History of Mount Rushmore


Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  john-russell  •  3 weeks ago  •  2 comments

By:   Readers Digest

The Racist History of Mount Rushmore
The history of Mount Rushmore is racist and remains a potent symbol of the nation's betrayal of indigenous people.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Melba NewsomeUpdated: May 07, 2021George Rinhart/Contributor/Getty Images

The history of Mount Rushmore is racist in its origins and remains a potent symbol of the nation's betrayal of indigenous people.

Each year, 2 million tourists visit Mount Rushmore, the mountain sculpture of four U.S. presidents. Located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, this "shrine to democracy" has largely been seen as a symbol of patriotism and American greatness.

While the 60-foot visages of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt and a secret room that houses copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, may seem like the perfect place to pay homage to the nation's independence, for many Native Americans and a growing number of others concerned about social justice, this towering structure is a symbol of bigotry and oppression. Its creator, Gutzon Borglum, intended the monument to be a celebration of the nation's manifest destiny, the doctrine that says the taking of any land needed for U.S. expansion was not only right but inevitable.

Mount Rushmore desecrates sacred land

Mount Rushmore was named for Charles E. Rushmore, a White New York City lawyer who visited the area in 1884. About a decade earlier, however, Lakota medicine man Nicolas Black Elk named it the Six Grandfathers after a vision of the ancestral spirits who appeared to him representing six sacred direction—west, east, north, south, above, and below. These directions were said to represent kindness and love, full of years and wisdom, like human grandfathers. Six Grandfathers was sacred to the Lakota Sioux who see the carvings as a desecration. How much do you know about these important Native American traditions and beliefs?

The U.S. violated a treaty with the indigenous people

The Black Hills, the land on which Mount Rushmore sits, was designated "unfit for civilization," and "Permanent Indian Country" in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. The United States entered into the treaty with the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota, collectively known as the Sioux, and Arapaho. The treaty designated the Black Hills as "unceded Indian Territory" in perpetuity. But when gold was found in the Black Hills several years later, the United States broke the treaty and redrew the boundaries. The Sioux were confined to the reservation. By 1875, some 800 miners and fortune-seekers had flooded into the Hills to pan for gold on land that had been reserved by the treaty exclusively for the Native Americans. Lakota and Cheyenne warriors attacked the prospectors; this action resulted in the U.S. passing a decree confining all Lakotas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos to the reservation under threat of military action.

The Supreme Court ruled the land was stolen

Breaking the Fort Laramie treaty has been at the center of a legal dispute for more than 120 years. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians that the land was taken illegally. "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history," the majority opinion stated. The Supreme Court also determined that the U.S. owed the Sioux Nation the 1877 price for the land, along with 100 years of interest, and awarded more than $100 million in reparations. The Sioux rejected the cash settlement, stating that the land was never for sale. The tribe still seeks return of the land today.

What Mount Rushmore has in common with Stone Mountain and other racist monuments

Darwin Fan/Getty ImagesBeyond the land itself, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain in Georgia owe their beginnings to the same racist sculptor, Borglum, a man who expressed his solidarity with and support for white supremacy. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDOC) are responsible for the vast majority of the confederate statues and monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. UDOC president Helen Plane believed the KKK had "saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule." She asked Bolgrum to honor that belief by carving a "shrine to the South" on Stone Mountain. Borglum sketched a 90-foot design that depicted Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson on horseback.

Although Borglum did not complete the Stone Mountain sculpture, his work captured the attention of South Dakota's state historian who asked Borglum to create a tourist attraction that would attract visitors to this remote location. It has been wildly successful, despite being known as one of the most controversial statues and monuments around the world.


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Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago   /opinion/story/2020-07-03/mount-rushmore-sculptor-racist

Mt. Rushmore monument creator was a racist. Tear it down? - Los Angeles Times

Timothy D. Dwyer 5-6 minutes   7/3/2020

Confederate President Jefferson Davis has been toppled from the most iconic street in Richmond, Va., and his neighbor, rebel Gen. Robert E. Lee, may soon follow. A U.S. vice president and ardent slavery defender, John C. Calhoun, was plucked from his 115-foot perch in the center of Charleston, S.C. And President Theodore Roosevelt may soon disappear from the steps of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.

Is there any monument in the United States that’s too big to fail a racial history test? A piece of public art with a connection to our checkered past that is too important, too monumental, to be removed from the face of America? Could Mt. Rushmore be that ultimate test?

We could soon find out. President Trump is planning to spend Friday watching the fireworks — and, no doubt, lobbing a few verbal ones — in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His visit will likely remind Americans that Rushmore’s presidential problem is as plain as the nose on George Washington’s face. Washington   (owner of 123 slaves)   and Thomas Jefferson ( who enslaved more than 600 humans throughout his life ) are only the beginning. Roosevelt’s mixed legacy — the   Smithsonian flat-out calls him a “racist”   even while noting he invited Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House — adds another pockmark on those faces of history.

Yet Mt. Rushmore’s hold on history is threatened by elements that go beyond the question of whether its subjects merit memorializing. Even before the first chip of rock had been hewn from the mountainside, Native Americans objected that the carving was on land they considered both sacred and stolen. Less controversial at the time was the past of Rushmore’s creator, an enigmatic Danish American named Gutzon Borglum. By the early 1900s Borglum was a celebrated sculptor, especially of Lincoln statues. He was also an avowed racist.

In fact, he was a card-carrying   member of the Ku Klux Klan . His involvement with the Klan   started in 1915 , when he contrived to win the commission to build a monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, Ga. The project was sponsored by the Daughters of the Confederacy, whose legacy of monuments to doomed Southern valor is currently the target of demonstrations across the country. Fired up by the   infamous film “Birth of A Nation,”   Klansmen had paraded to the top of Stone Mountain to stage a rally and   burn a cross on Thanksgiving 1915 .

Borglum quickly saw the Klan as a source of financial and moral support for his massive project. By 1923, Borglum was named to the Kloncilium, the highest national council of the Klan, and in 1924 he tried to engineer a presidential campaign for his favorite imperial wizard.

Although he mastered the art of mass-scale sculpting on the Stone Mountain cliffside, the moody, imperious Borglum was finally fired from the project after a tumultuous decade, and his work was ultimately blasted out of the stone. Borglum soon moved on to Mt. Rushmore, but   he always hoped to return to complete Stone Mountain . When Henry Augustus Lukeman was commissioned to replace him at Stone Mountain, Borglum was irate. “Every able man in America refused it, and thank God, every Christian,” the Smithsonian reported Borglum saying at the time. “They got a Jew.”

Yes, Borglum wasn’t just a racist. He was also an anti-Semite. In an essay he wrote in the 1920s called “The Jewish Question,” he said, “Jews refuse to enter the mainstream of civilization, to become producing members of the world community. They do not share or create, but choose instead to clannishly hold onto their old ways and with mere money buy and sell the efforts of others.”

Remarkably, Borglum sent a draft of his essay to Isidore Singer, a friend who was the editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia, to ask his opinion.   Singer replied, with good humor : “Dear friend Gutzon, reading what you write someone would think you were an anti-Semite, when in reality you are a philo-Semite.” Borglum’s response: “If you were not a bigger man than you are a Jew, I would throw bricks at you.”

And now, perhaps, comes America’s turn to throw bricks at Borglum and his greatest creation. While some of the statues banished in recent months have arguably been of dubious artistic merit, Mt. Rushmore is an undisputed artistic and engineering triumph. It also presents us with perhaps the ultimate challenge to public art — or any art.

What should be done with an accomplishment of global significance that features problematic men carved in a problematic location by a problematic sculptor? Perhaps Rushmore’s massive scale will prove to be a blessing during this tumultuous time. Too large to be pulled down overnight, it may force us to have a substantive public conversation on how and whom we choose to remember in American history.

Timothy D. Dwyer is researching his next book, a history of Mt. Rushmore and its creator, Gutzon Borglum.

Professor Principal
2  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

Mt Rushmore is a good example of a national monument that distorts US history. It's own history.  The creator was a racist who was also involved in the construction of the Confederate monument at Stone Mountain Georgia. 


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