Unlearning Mt. Rushmore: Legacy of Injustice


I just downloaded the late Howard Zinn’s masterful A People’s History of the United States. You might say I’m divesting myself of the whitewash of American history handed down to me by a white culture.

As I write, Trump plans to visit Mt. Rushmore today, July 3, replete with flyover and fireworks, 7500 lottery selected attendees not observing social distancing, few wearing masks.  It sits upon sacred land, 1200 acres, stolen from the Lakota in violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty (1868) following the discovery of gold in the Black Hills.

We know about Washington, Jefferson and Teddy. I didn’t know Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, the largest mass execution in American history, following their uprising. In the aftermath, the Dakota were expelled, their lands seized. Subsequently, the bodies of the executed, buried in a mass grave, were exhumed and used for cadavers.

The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, held racist sentiments and was previously known for his earlier contribution to Stone Mountain (he was dismissed from the project for his competing interest in Rushmore) near Atlanta with its gargantuan effigies of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.

While not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, he supported their views. In one of his letters, he complained of a “mongrel horde” contaminating the “Nordic purity” of the West. In another, he wrote of his successor at Stone Mountain, “They got themselves a Jew.”

–RJoly

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