A Thomas Hart Benton painting is at the heart of a controversy at Indiana University, where a student petition is calling for a mural depicting hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan to be removed from a classroom. In response, the school has stopped holding classes in the room, the largest lecture hall on campus.
In the mural, the Klansmen are seen alongside a reporter, photographer, and printer—a reference to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1928 story that uncovered the KKK’s ties to the government and broke their political influence over the state. Similarly, Benton unapologetically depicted the ugly side of Missouri history, including lynchings and a slave auction, in his A Social History of Missouri murals for the state capitol building.
Nearly 1,600 signatories are asking the school to take down or cover the offending panel from A Social History of Indiana (1933), also known as the Indiana murals. But others are speaking up in support of the artwork, contending that Benton was looking to draw attention to the evils of the Klan.