Students Petition for Removal of KKK Painting

A mural in Woodburn Hall that includes a depiction of the Ku Klux Klan originally was painted for the Chicago World's Fair.

At a time when people across the country are calling for the removal of Confederate statues and artwork because they’re seen as divisive, a petition drive is underway to remove a controversial painting at the Indiana University Bloomington campus. 

Students taking classes at Woodbury Hall see a large mural depicting Hoosier history. In the background is the scene of a Ku Klux Klan rally, complete with hooded men and a burning cross. 

Former IU lecturer and assistant professor in the School of Communications at Ohio State University, Lanier Holt, says Indiana is known for a lot of things, including race cars and basketball, and he says it’s unfortunate that IU decided to highlight something that’s so insidious.

“Why should we hang something that, pure and simple, not just acknowledges but sort of normalizes the glorification of an organization who’s bent on the destruction of Jews, gays, blacks, anyone who’s not white Anglo-Saxon Protestant?” he queries.

No plans to remove painting


IU says there are no plans to remove the painting, with officials saying it celebrates the downfall of the KKK, which is deeply embedded in Indiana’s history. 

Former IU student Jaqueline Barrie started the petition drive on change.org, asking for it to be taken down because it makes some students uncomfortable.

Holt believes in the freedom of expression but says it’s not right that students who had family members who were slaves have to avert their eyes while getting an education. He adds the very fact that IU is being asked to remove the artwork highlights the extent of racism in this country.

“Most of our parents, our grandparents and as far back as we can go, black people have been in the service of white people, and if we have to explain racism to white people, who by all rights and by their own abilities should have gotten it by now, that is a disrespect to our forebearers and a waste of our time,” he explains. 

The mural, called “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press,” was painted by renowned 20th-century artist Thomas Hart Benton. It originally was painted for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and was installed at Indiana University in 1941.

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