Mount Rushmore has become the latest and perhaps the most famous monument to be caught up in the nationwide debate about whether or not monuments and statues that were erected more than a century ago should be removed because of the questionable personal history of those that they are memorializing.
In a now-deleted tweet earlier this week the Democratic National Committee wrote:
“Trump has disrespected Native communities time and again. He’s attempted to limit their voting rights and blocked critical pandemic relief,” the since-deleted tweet read. “Now he’s holding a rally glorifying white supremacy at Mount Rushmore — a region once sacred to tribal communities.”
The New York Times joined the DNC on Wednesday with an article entitled “How Mount Rushmore Became Mount Rushmore,” written by reporters Bryan Pietsch and Jacey Fortin, who explore the monument’s racist history and the “complicated legacy” of the presidents whose faces are sculpted into the granite.
Pietsch and Fortin state that Mount Rushmore has “never been without controversy,” owing to the fact it was built on tribal land and with Trump’s visit on July 3 has “invited even more scrutiny of the monument’s history, the leaders it celebrates, the sculptor who created it and the land it towers over.”
The article goes on to mention criticism of Washington and Jefferson for being slaveowners, Theodore Roosevelt for actively seeking “to Christianize and uproot Native Americans as the United States expanded,” and for being a racist, according to Gene A. Smith, a professor of U.S. history at Texas Christian University. Abraham Lincoln was faulted for being “reluctant and late” on the Emancipation Proclamation by some.
Trump has also been criticized for pushing to hold a fireworks display at the monument for the first time since they were halted in 2010 for environmental concerns and for the lack of social distancing for the 7,500 spectators who are expected to attend.