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Sun Nov 11, 2018, 04:38 AM

Smithsonian: The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore

(This is 2 yrs. old, I never saw it until tonight, by chance. Too interesting to put aside.)

Smithsonian: The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore
The sculptor behind the American landmark had some unseemly ties to white supremacy groups
By Matthew Shaer
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe
October 2016

Each year, two million visitors walk or roll from the entrance of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in South Dakota, to the Avenue of Flags, to peer up at the 60-foot visages of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Dedicated 75 years ago this month, Mount Rushmore was intended by its creator, Gutzon Borglum, to be a celebration of not only these four presidents but also the nation’s unprecedented greatness. “This colossus is our mark,” he wrote with typical bombast. Yet Borglum’s own sordid story shows that this beloved site is also a testament to the ego and ugly ambition that undergird even our best-known triumphs.

In 1914, Borglum was a sculptor in Connecticut of modest acclaim when he received an inquiry from the elderly president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, C. Helen Plane, about building a “shrine to the South” near Atlanta. When he first glimpsed “the virgin stone” of his canvas, a quartz hump called Stone Mountain, Borglum later recalled, “I saw the thing I had been dreaming of all my life.” He sketched out a vast sculpture of generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and was hired.

The son of polygamist Mormons from Idaho, Borglum had no ties to the Confederacy, but he had white supremacist leanings. In letters he fretted about a “mongrel horde” overrunning the “Nordic” purity of the West, and once said, “I would not trust an Indian, off-hand, 9 out of 10, where I would not trust a white man 1 out of 10.” Above all, he was an opportunist. He aligned himself with the Ku Klux Klan, an organization reborn—it had faded after the Civil War—in a torch-light ceremony atop Stone Mountain in 1915. While there isn’t proof that Borglum officially joined the Klan, which helped fund the project, “he nonetheless became deeply involved in Klan politics,” John Taliaferro writes in Great White Fathers, his 2002 history of Mount Rushmore.

Borglum’s decision to work with the Klan wasn’t even a sound business proposition. By the mid-1920s, infighting left the group in disarray and fundraising for the Stone Mountain memorial stalled. Around then, the South Dakota historian behind the Mount Rushmore initiative approached Borglum—an overture that enraged Borglum’s Atlanta backers, who fired him on February 25, 1925. He took an ax to his models for the shrine, and with a posse of locals on his heels, fled to North Carolina.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/sordid-history-mount-rushmore-180960446/#ol60a4AtlDi8eW3S.99

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Reply Smithsonian: The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore (Original post)
Judi Lynn Nov 2018 OP
MyOwnPeace Nov 2018 #1
amcgrath Nov 2018 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2018, 08:11 AM

1. Interesting.......

Thanks for posting!

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2018, 02:07 PM

2. I have visited a few national parks/monuments

Along with the very dedicated stewardship of the land, I was struck by the candour and knowledge of the staff.
In many visits to the US, nowhere have I encountered people so knowledgable and honest about the history of the country and their parks.
At Rushmore I asked about the record of each of the presidents depicted, staff could detail every reason why those faces were considered insulting to the area, the laws they passed, the betrayals they made to the Natives
I encountered similar honesty at Little Bighorn. It wasn't 'un-American', it was a highly admirable devotion to facts and history.
It makes it all the more galling to see Trump attacking these institutions and their staff - as he attacks other governments departments who deal in facts.

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