Student seeks removal of Benton mural section

The infamous section of the Thomas H. Benton mural hanging in Woodburn Hall room 100 that features members of the Ku Klux Klan and a burning cross is in the spotlight again after former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Rev. Al Sharpton said the mural is offensive and should be removed after his speech in the IU Auditorium Thursday evening.

Sharpton viewed the mural after junior Derren Chapman asked the civil rights activist for his help in getting the painting taken down during the question and answer segment of Sharpton's speech.

But it is unclear whether this new development will result in the removal of the mural panel.

Sharpton said the painting belonged in a museum, not in a public space, and would do everything he could to help Chapman see it moved.

Chapman vowed to work to get the painting taken down.

"I wouldn't like to see the mural removed at all, I would love to see the mural removed," he said.

He said the proper place for anything representing Klansmen is in a museum.

"For it to be in a classroom where pretty much anybody can see it -- it hurts people, it's very offensive to some people," said Chapman, who has had a class in Woodburn 100.

He plans to work with any group willing to help his cause, and thought Sharpton could really aid in getting the mural removed.

"I would love for Mr. Sharpton to get this in the news nationally to see what other black political leaders think about it," Chapman said.

David White, political director of the IU College Republicans, was in the crowd that gathered outside Woodburn 100 Thursday as Sharpton examined the mural. He said he agreed with Sharpton's message, though he didn't agree with Sharpton's word choice.

"To move it to another venue wouldn't be all that unreasonable," he said. "As the political director of the College Republicans, if there was a movement to move the mural, I would support that movement."

But Courtney Williams, the newly elected president of the Black Student Union said she feels that BSU's resources are better used addressing other issues, such as why there are so few black students at IU.

Williams, who has had a class in Woodburn 100, said the inclusion of Klansmen in the mural is acceptable because it is part of Indiana's history, albeit an unattractive one.

"(The Benton mural) is one of the things that has an easy explanation," she said.

Though many upperclassmen might feel strongly about the mural, the measures which the University has taken to educate the public are a step in the right direction, Williams said. Currently, every class in Woodburn 100 begins the semester with a video explaining the historical connotations of the painting.

There isn't necessarily a consensus in the BSU about whether the mural should be moved, either, said Williams.

"In the BSU there is no universal feeling about the mural," she said.

Williams said she understands students' concerns about the mural, but she said the University's current efforts do help explain the imagery.

IU Spokesman Larry MacIntyre said IU administrators were aware of Sharpton's comments on the mural but he was not aware of any discussion on moving the painting as of Sunday.

-- Contact Staff Writer Michael Zennie at

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