Gutzon Borglum and the KKK

Gutzon Borglum was, at one time in his life, a powerful member of the Ku Klux Klan, the nationalist, white supremacist organization created after the fall of the South in the American Civil War. He held a lifetime membership, was on their payroll for the Stone Mountain project, and he was also known to be a member of the Imperial Koncilium, a council of high ranking Klansmen who oversaw the transfer of power from one Imperial Wizard to another. (

He also later repudiated his involvement with the Klan. Whether the repudiation was sincere or not depends upon who is being asked, as some modern critics as well as some modern Klansmen alike prefer to think that the repudiation was political rather than sincere.

This reaction is understandable when we look at Gutzon Borglum in is expansive, empassioned, larger-than-life persona which was caught up in perhaps romanticized ideals of Manifest Destiny as it applied to the creation of the Mount Rushmore monument. While the Indian Wars were over decades before Gutzon Borglum began work on the sculpture of Mount Rushmore, the tensions between Anglo-Americans and Native Americans was far from resolution, and the conflict was still a part of living memory in several areas of the Black Hills.

When we look at the past with social sensitivity born from historic hindsight, it can be tempting to witness the outpouring of Borglum's patriotism and label it as an inwardly directed form of imperialism. The megasized sculpture of four presidents, known not only for their expansionist views but also for their dislike of Native Americans, four white men carved indelibly
Next >>>