Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It’s a great rule, but what I would argue is even better is to research and verify before believing anything you read online or elsewhere.

Recently, I stumbled upon a meme that offered up several disturbing ‘facts’ about the origin of Mount Rushmore, from the acquisition of the land to the funding sources, one noted as the Ku Klux Klan.

The internet can be a dangerous place these days, so before I accepted the post as fact, I was curious enough to do some deep digging to see if, in fact, the KKK was behind (or even partially) behind the Mount Rushmore project.

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There were several great articles and sources in my search, including stories from Snopes.comSmithsonian MagazineNational Geographic, and The Washington Post.

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Here is the original meme that I stumbled upon:

Spencer Garrett on Twitter: "😪 https://t.co/D7QLoiOHvD" / Twitter

So…did the KKK in part help fund the Mount Rushmore project? Here’s what I found.

First, let’s start with the history of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum (Smithsonian):

“In 1914, Borglum was a sculptor in Connecticut of modest acclaim when he received an inquiry from the elderly president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, C. Helen Plane, about building a “shrine to the South” near Atlanta.”

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Additionally, the article continues…

“The son of polygamist Mormons from Idaho, Borglum had no ties to the Confederacy, but he had white supremacist leanings. In letters he fretted about a “mongrel horde” overrunning the “Nordic” purity of the West, and once said, “I would not trust an Indian, off-hand, 9 out of 10, where I would not trust a white man 1 out of 10.” Above all, he was an opportunist. He aligned himself with the Ku Klux Klan, an organization reborn—it had faded after the Civil War—in a torch-light ceremony atop Stone Mountain in 1915. While there isn’t proof that Borglum officially joined the Klan, which helped fund the project, “he nonetheless became deeply involved in Klan politics,” John Taliaferro writes in Great White Fathers, his 2002 history of Mount Rushmore.”

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Perhaps the key to finding the correct answer has to do with the conclusion of that aforementioned Stone Mountain project (Snopes article):

“The KKK did financially back the Stone Mountain project, even though Borglum tried to obscure its involvement. But infighting within the Klan by the mid-1920s, as well as stalled fundraising for the monument, led to Borglum leaving the project. He was approached by a historian to take on the Mount Rushmore project in South Dakota, enraging his backers on Stone Mountain. By 1927, he began carving Mount Rushmore, devoting the last 14 years of his life to the project that was finished by his son."

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The KKK does not appear to have been behind any funding for Mount Rushmore. As Snopes reports, "Borglum received mostly federal funding for Rushmore, and he had left too much bad blood behind in Georgia to receive further funding.”

There you have it. While the Ku Klux Klan has very slight ties to the construction of Mount Rushmore via the sculptor, there is no proof that they ever funded it, or partly funded it.

All four of the referenced articles provide a great deal of information and insight into the other claims and controversy surrounding Mount Rushmore.

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Clearly, the history of the monument isn’t pretty in all facets, but it’s good to dig deeper into history and get a sense of how things aren’t always what they seem.

Regardless, it is always a great idea to research and verify information before accepting it as fact.

For more on the history of Mount Rushmore, visit any of the referenced articles throughout the story, or the official site of the monument here.

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