The New York Times, after ignoring the issue for decades, has abruptly become quite concerned about the dark history behind the historical granite carvings of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, featuring Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
Under the misleadingly benign headline “How Mount Rushmore Became Mount Rushmore,” reporters Bryan Pietsch and Jacey Fortin stirred up more racial animosity in the wake of the George Floyd protests and Trump’s announcement he would attend a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on Independence Day:
This year, for the first time in more than a decade, there will be a major fireworks display to commemorate Independence Day at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
The sculpture features the faces of four American presidents -- Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln -- carved into a granite slope over the Black Hills of South Dakota. In the eight decades since the carving was completed, it has never been without controversy.
So when President Trump announced in May that he would attend the festivities there, it invited even more scrutiny of the monument’s history, the leaders it celebrates, the sculptor who created it and the land it towers over.
Native Americans have long criticized the sculpture, in part because it was built on what had been Indigenous land. And more recently, amid a nationwide movement against racism that has toppled statues commemorating Confederate generals and other historical figures, some activists have called for Mount Rushmore to close.
The Times complained that the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, “formed strong bonds with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan...He also espoused white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideas....”
By the way, that marks the first mention of Borglum’s Klan sympathies by The Times since a 2002 book review. Why the sudden surge of interest?
Again, the paper dug up the problematic past that it had previously ignored, in convenient, cynical fashion, all to further the reigning left-wing racial, anti-patriotic narrative:
Mount Rushmore is built on land that had belonged to the Lakota tribe. “Wherever you go to connect to God, that’s what the Black Hills are to the Lakota,” said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of NDN Collective, an Indigenous activist group.
Prospectors seized the land during a gold rush in the 1870s, violating the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868, which recognized the Black Hills as belonging to Native Americans, Mr. Tilsen said in an interview.
Critics of the monument have also taken issue with the men whose faces were etched into the granite. Mr. Borglum chose Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, he said, because they embodied “the founding, expansion, preservation and unification of the United States.”
But each of these titans of American history has a complicated legacy. Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders. Roosevelt actively sought to Christianize and uproot Native Americans as the United States expanded, Professor Smith said. “He was a racist,” he added.
Not even Abraham Lincoln came out unscathed: “And although Lincoln was behind the Emancipation Proclamation -- a move some have characterized as reluctant and late -- he has been criticized for his response to the so-called Minnesota Uprising, in which more than 300 Native Americans were sentenced to death by a military court after being accused of attacking white settlers in 1862.”