BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An online petition calling for Indiana University to remove of part of a 1930s mural depicting a Ku Klux Klan rally echoes previous debates over it.

The scene is within a 22-panel mural about the state’s history in Woodburn Hall on the Bloomington campus. Part of one panel in the lecture hall shows white-hooded Klansmen burning a cross, representing the KKK’s political strength in Indiana during the 1920s.

Former student Jacquline Barrie told the Indianapolis Star she started the petition because the scene is a symbol of hate.

“I think that allowing it to stay sends the wrong message because in my experience, sometimes the fact that a symbol of hate or something as simple as a picture can sometimes, to some people, be justification for those kind of acts,” she said.

Barrie said removing the panel or relocating the entire mural to a museum and providing educational context would be ideal.

University spokesman Ryan Piurek said the depiction is a reminder of an unsavory portion of Indiana’s history.

James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, said the panel provides a teachable moment.

“It does not glorify or celebrate this particular dark episode of the KKK in Indiana, but instead shows that the state’s past has shameful moments the likes of which we do not want to see again, ever,” he said. “It’s important to understand the state’s history — the good and the bad.”

The petition follows recent deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. University leaders kept the mural in place after similar objections about 15 years ago.

The panel also includes images of a nurse caring for both black and white children. It depicts reporters at the Indianapolis Times who won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for their work exposing political corruption and breaking the Klan’s stronghold in the state, said James Capshew, a historian at the university.

Thomas Hart Benton painted the 250-foot-long mural for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It was installed at the university in 1941.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com