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home : most recent : region 5 September 25, 2017


8/31/2017 10:43:00 AM
IU's Thomas Hart Benton mural with KKK image being challenged again
A Ku Klux Klan cross-burning is seen in a portion of a controversial Thomas Hart Benton mural depicting Indiana history. One of 22 Benton mural on the Indiana University campus, this one is in a Woodburn Hall classroom. Staff photo by David Snodgress
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A Ku Klux Klan cross-burning is seen in a portion of a controversial Thomas Hart Benton mural depicting Indiana history. One of 22 Benton mural on the Indiana University campus, this one is in a Woodburn Hall classroom. Staff photo by David Snodgress
The Thomas Hart Benton mural includes a Ku Klux Klan rally in the background at center. Also included is a depiction of reporters writing about the Klan and for which The Indianapolis Times won a Pultizer Prize. The mural was part of a 22-panel series created for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Staff photo by David Snodgress
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The Thomas Hart Benton mural includes a Ku Klux Klan rally in the background at center. Also included is a depiction of reporters writing about the Klan and for which The Indianapolis Times won a Pultizer Prize. The mural was part of a 22-panel series created for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Staff photo by David Snodgress

Abby Tonsing, Herald-Times

An online petition signed by more than 1,000 people requests that Indiana University officials remove a Thomas Hart Benton mural in a Woodburn Hall classroom because it shows a Ku Klux Klan rally in the background.

IU officials continue to stand by past decisions to keep the mural in the large lecture hall.

Every few years, fresh outrage arises over what is depicted in the Benton mural called “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press.” The foreground of the mural shows a newspaper reporter at a typewriter, a photographer and a press operator. A nurse cares for two babies, one black and one white, in the center of the mural. In the background, a cross burns while hooded figures conduct a KKK rally. 

“It’s an evocation of the history of the state,” university historian James Capshew said Wednesday. “The press took the Klan down, changed the public perception of the Klan in the 1920s. It’s a piece of history, and it’s important to remember that.”

The online petition, “Remove KKK Mural in Woodburn Hall at Indiana University,” argues the artwork violates the university’s diversity statement and the right to freedom from discrimination section of the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct.

“While it is important to be aware of the history of Indiana, the KKK is still active throughout the state of Indiana. The mural does not mark a time in history of Indiana because it is still extremely relevant today,” reads the petition created by former student Jacquline Barrie.

Related Links:
• Herald-Times full text
• A Man and His Mural (From PBS Antiques Roadshow)
• IU Commission on Multicultural Understanding: Benton Murals

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Learning the lessons of history

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