13 of the world’s most controversial monuments

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When you think of monuments, you might think of impressive structures like the Washington Monument or the Eiffel Tower that millions of people have visited throughout the years.

But not all monuments receive universal acclaim. From memorials for war criminals or army deserters to statues constructed under dubious circumstances, these 13 monuments have seen their fair share of controversy since their construction.

Keep scrolling to learn more about these potentially problematic attractions.

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Mount Rushmore was designed by a sculptor who allegedly had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and was built on seized land.

Per the 1980 Supreme Court case United States vs. Sioux Nation of Indians, Mount Rushmore is located on Sioux land. While the court ruled that the tribe should be offered the 1877 price of the land, plus 100 years of interest, the offer was rebuffed.

When the history of the monument, which was completed in 1941, is taken into account, it’s surprising that Mount Rushmore has become such an American icon.

Besides its location and history, Mount Rushmore is controversial because it was designed by Gutzon Borglum, a polarizing figure in his own right as he is said to have developed sympathetic connections with the Ku Klux Klan while working on Stone Mountain, which depicts the leaders of the Confederacy. 

He never finished Stone Mountain, instead focusing on Mount Rushmore, the original plan for which, conceived by the state historian of South Dakota, was to depict Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and General George Custer. Borglum scrapped that idea, and replaced them with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln — four white men, two of which owned slaves.

Stone Mountain depicts the leaders of the Confederacy — openly white supremacists.

The giant figures sculpted in granite rock on Stone Mountain, which sits outside Atlanta, Georgia, are Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America, alongside Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It was completed in 1972.

The location for the monument is no coincidence either. Stone Mountain has long been considered an important site for the Ku Klux Klan, which famously held its first cross burning there in 1915.

Stone Mountain is just one of many Confederate monuments, statues, and memorials that have come under fire in recent years, but getting rid of it proves complicated, as the mountain would need to be scraped off or blown up.

While many think these Confederate monuments offer valuable history lessons, others see them as tributes to white supremacy.

A memorial for Sioux leader Crazy Horse has been called hypocritical, and remains unfinished after seven decades.

Construction on the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills began in 1948. While it may one day become one of the largest sculptures in the world, 70 years later, it’s still under construction.

Why the long process? Because Korczak Ziolkowski, the designer of the memorial, learned from the misadventures of Gutzon Borglum, the man behind Mount Rushmore, who kept getting delayed due to issues with federal funding. Thus, Ziolkowski vowed to only accept private funding, which has led to a glacial pace of progress.

Critics of this memorial claim that Crazy Horse, a prominent Sioux figure, would never have wanted a giant statue of himself carved into the hills he sought to protect. Also, there are no documented photographs of Crazy Horse himself, so there is also a serious question about the appearance of the memorial.

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