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Petition Calls For Removing Controversial IU Mural Depicting KKK

  • The scene is meant to represent the rise and fall of the KKK in Indiana during the 1920s.

    Image 1 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    The scene is meant to represent the rise and fall of the KKK in Indiana during the 1920s.

  • A wider view of the panel entitled “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press.

    Image 2 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    A wider view of the panel entitled “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press."

  • A display outside the lecture hall explains the history of the Benton Murals located in Woodburn Hall, the IU Auditorium, and the IU Cinema.

    Image 3 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    A display outside the lecture hall explains the history of the Benton Murals located in Woodburn Hall, the IU Auditorium, and the IU Cinema.

  • The display also addresses the controversy surrounding the panel in Woodburn Hall.

    Image 4 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    The display also addresses the controversy surrounding the panel in Woodburn Hall.

  • Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press

    Image 5 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press" panel.

  • Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press

    Image 6 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press" panel.

  • Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press

    Image 7 of 7

    Photo: James Vavrek (WFIU/WTIU News)

    Another scene from the “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press" panel.

A new petition is calling for the removal of a mural from a building on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus that depicts a scene of the Ku Klux Klan.

The petition says the mural, located in a classroom in Woodburn Hall, violates the rights of students and faculty of color by forcing them “to work and study in an environment that promotes a group known for discriminating against people of color … and other marginalized groups of people.”

The mural panel depicts several KKK members and a burning cross as part of a greater scene representing Indiana’s history in the 1920s.

The university installed an informational display outside the lecture hall in 2011 to address the history and debate surrounding the mural.

The piece has been the subject of controversy since its creation by artist Thomas Hart Benton in 1933.

Curator at the Eskenazi Museum of Art Nan Brewer says Indiana legislators fought to keep the scene out of the mural. But Brewer says Benton’s argument for its inclusion is still relevant today.

“Benton was able to convince them that it was important to show both the positive and negative aspects of your history, or nobody would believe any of it, that you really had to be honest,” Brewer says.

As of Aug. 30, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures. It will be delivered to the IU Board of Trustees.

Indiana University spokesperson Ryan Piurek said in a statement university leadership has not changed its position on the murals.

“Through much discussion, analysis and reflection over many years, Indiana University has consistently concluded that education is the best response to concerns over the Benton Murals,” he said. “We believe that students gain the most if they are well informed about the murals, which serve as a reminder and testimonial to an unsavory and criminal portion of Indiana’s history. Their presence helps insure history will be not repeated.”

Piurek says school officials recognize the murals may make some students uncomfortable, especially in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA.

“The university will continue to provide personal support and other resources, through its Division of Student Affairs and Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, for any students or staff members who are experiencing an issue that impacts their ability to succeed or feel at home at IU,” the statement said.

In a video recorded in April 2012, Brewer discusses the mural and its controversy:

 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

  • Bob Eckert

    It should be removed and moved to controlled storage at the Art Museum and only shown under specific showings that explain the context thoroughly.

  • David Jensen

    An inescapable part of life is to encounter information we find offensive, even incomprehensible. The university’s role is to help students and citizens understand that information – not to agree with it, but to understand it in the context of history. Thomas Hart Benton’s portrayal of a dark event in our common history clearly does not promote the KKK, but includes the unpleasant scene in contrast to the farmers, factory workers, scientists and others elsewhere included in this magnificent mural. The very idea of removing – censoring – any part of Benton’s work should be anathema to this institution.

  • rick

    The murals should stay. To deny history is an equal wrong to refusing to learn from history. The panel in question clearly shows despicable clan activity. The panel also shows a nurse rendering care to patients of “differing color” if you will. The larger lesson being that as it grew Indiana and it it’s citizens learned to be more accepting of good and less tolerant of evil. I do not support this current effort to censure our artistic history in order to be politically correct. If we do not acknowledge all of our history, we cannot learn from it.

  • ceeman

    Please don’t even consider this. The depiction of KKK activities simply acknowledges that they were a part of the landscape. Thomas Hart Benton was a liberal and in no way would have advocated for such a hate group. This is one of the worst examples of overturning history as a way of redressing our sad past.

  • Rob Fersch

    Why not just go the whole nine yards and store it a wooden crate next to the Ark of the Covenant so no one’s sensitive eyes are forced to reflect on its artistic merit except for “Top Men”?

  • Charles S. Watson

    Those who want to hide this mural, or more likely destroy it, might benefit from reading Orwell’s book, 1984. In that book the hero, Winston, had a job “cleaning up” history, by going through books that described activities that the government found disagreeable and snipping them out. These were placed in a disposal container labeled something like Non-Facts or maybe Fake News, I can’t remember. One way or another, those who remain ignorant of history are likely to repeat it.

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