Duke removes controversial 'KKK' picture at Sanford School of Public Policy

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Friday, September 7, 2018
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Duke University has removed what some called a controversial photograph

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Duke University has removed what some called a controversial photograph from a permanent exhibit in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

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Dean Judith Kelley let staff and students know about the move this week in an email.

The photo, according to Kelley, was taken in Greensboro in 1963. It shows several KKK supporters holding a Confederate battle flag and KKK signs while interrupting a civil rights march.

"It is a powerful image and disturbing image and was selected by the curators to show the hostile context of the times during which Governor Sanford worked toward racial equality, though it does not depict an event or action in which he was in attendance," Dean Kelley wrote.

The photograph was part of a permanent exhibit at the school honoring former North Carolina Governor and Duke President Terry Sanford. The pictures were put up in 2009.

"Over time, many members of our community have raised concerns that daily exposure to this image in their place of work and study has been deeply troubling for them. This matter has been raised in our town hall meetings and subsequent conversations I have had with a range of students, faculty and staff," Kelley wrote.

The photograph has been replaced by a different image of Sanford himself.

"It too is a very powerful image and shows a governor who was courageous in his words and courageous in his deeds taking action," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations at Duke University.

The picture was taken down the same day students and faculty rallied in front of the Carr Building on East Campus to change the name of that building.

"It is the time we live in," Schoenfeld said. "There is a heightened state of awareness. There is polarization on a number of issues but there is also a strong desire for unification and for a reckoning and a resolution of history."

Schoenfeld said it was a deliberative process by which the picture came down and said the same thing will be done with the renaming of buildings.

"You don't just rip a picture off a wall, you don't make the decisions lightly," he said. "Whether you're changing the name of a building or moving a piece of art -- they should be difficult decisions."

Schoenfeld said a committee is forming to evaluate the proposal made by the history department to change the Carr name. He said Duke's president will then ask that committee to make recommendations by the end of the year before that is sent to the board of trustees.

Dean Kelley also wrote:

"I believe this action maintains the original learning objective while removing a barrier that undermined the inclusivity we strive for. I urge all members of the Sanford community to remain committed to learning and educating others about Terry Sanford's pioneering attempts to end white supremacy, and to understanding and addressing the structural inequalities and racism that remain to this day. I encourage all of our faculty to use the classroom as a medium for engaging our students in these matters, and to infuse elements of these painful realities into our curriculum.

"As a community, we should never shy away from hard conversations, but we can do that while respecting and caring for one another. That makes us strong. I thank everyone who shared their concerns with civility and respect for differing perspectives. I am proud to be part of this community, in which we grapple with hard topics and learn and grow from that struggle."