Ku Klux Klan

The Harry Ransom Center opened it’s “Gone to the Wind” exhibit to the public on Monday morning. The exhibit showcases orignial artifacts and documents involed in the production of the film.

Photo Credit: Lauryn Hanley | Daily Texan Staff

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable graced the silver screen 75 years ago in the antebellum classic “Gone with the Wind.” To commemorate its anniversary, the Harry Ransom Center is showcasing hundreds of original artifacts and documents, offering visitors a look behind the scenes of the casting and production of the film. 

Although “Gone With the Wind” is often regarded as an American classic, its subject matter sparked controversy. Letters from the Ku Klux Klan to director David Selznick are included in the exhibit. Some of the letters in the collection lobby for the KKK’s presence in the film’s production and script. But the KKK was not the only group attempting to influence the film’s messages; the NAACP also called for the sensitive treatment of slavery and African-American culture. 

Hutchison said the book “Gone with the Wind” has a dual nature, which was partly responsible for its controversial history.

“[It was] popular and problematic — loved and loathed,” Hutchison said.

While the story line of the film sweeps viewers away into a dramatic love story, critics are quick to catch the inaccurate portrayal of certain historical aspects, particularly slavery. In many ways, Selznick encountered the same dilemmas modern directors face. He once admitted he was willing to sacrifice accuracy for a stunning effect. 

Danielle Sigler, the Ransom Center’s associate director for fellowships and programs, said such issues as race, violence, war and gender are still prevalent in society today. She suggested that directors of movies like “12 Years a Slave” have to confront many of the same questions Selznick did in the 1930s, deciding where to draw the line between accuracy and sensitivity.

English associate professor Coleman Hutchison compared “Gone With the Wind” to a modern-day series, such as “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games,” explaining how the public overlooks questionable details as it falls in love with the rich storytelling. Fans of “Gone with the Wind” pass their love of the film along to their children and grandchildren.

Old newspaper clippings line the walls of the exhibit, which updated the public on the search for the perfect actress to play the role of the main character, Scarlett O’Hara. Wilson said many women even identified so closely with O’Hara that some believed they actually were her. When it was first announced the novel would be adapted to film, a nationwide obsession as to who would snag the coveted lead roles began.

“It all came down to Scarlett O’Hara,” said Steve Wilson, the Ransom Center’s film curator. 

Open to the public starting Tuesday, the exhibit takes viewers through the film’s casting, production and premieres. Documents, makeup stills, memos, newspaper articles and other mementos from the film are all on display.

The majestic University campus is a source of pride for all Longhorns, from the collegiate Six Pack to the ever-photogenic Tower. What most students fail to notice about our campus, however, is the years of racism ingrained in its landmarks and buildings. From buildings named for a KKK Grand Dragon to the three Confederate flags that fly on the 40 Acres, the “legacy of the Confederacy” can be found throughout campus — but hardly anyone notices.

Edmund Gordon, chair of the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, hosts a tour of the racial geography and history of the UT campus. During this tour, he educates students about the origins of places on campus such as Littlefield House, the home of George Littlefield, Mississippi slave owner, Confederate major and former UT regent. Littlefield established a “Littlefield Fund for Southern History” to revamp the University’s textbooks in a “confederate perspective,” which glorifies the antebellum South and reduces the evils of slavery. Littlefield donated a great deal to the University, including Littlefield Fountain and a nearby inscription to the men and women of the Confederacy who “gave their possessions” to protect the South.

Other spots on campus are also highlighted, including RLM Hall, named for Robert Lee Moore, a mathematician who refused to let African-American students in his classes, and the former Simkins dormitory, named for William Simkins, Florida KKK Grand Dragon and former UT professor. Simkins had a major role in reinitiating the KKK at UT, and he gave an annual speech to the student body about his appreciation of the KKK. Painter Hall is named for a former UT president who was involved in preventing Heman Sweatt, a black UT School of Law applicant, from attending the law school because of his race.

The tour also highlights some of the UT traditions that have racial undertones. For example, UT’s annual Roundup event used to feature a minstrel show in which students dressed as and imitated African-Americans and Hispanics. During these shows, the UT alma mater “The Eyes of Texas” was performed as a minstrelsy song. The Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is named after the legendary football coach who was also one of the last in the nation to allow black students on his team. His reputation is allegedly one of the reasons that led to his retirement.

Some have called for the removal of many of these landmarks, such as the rows of statues of Confederate soldiers in the Six Pack. They argue that the landmarks besmirch UT’s name and create a hostile environment for many students. Our University has — for the most part — transformed since the time of overt racism, and the landscape does not reflect this.

Others argue the landmarks are a preservation of Southern history and should be preserved. Yet the history and culture these critics are trying to protect is one of deep-seated racial hatred. This argument often masks the racism that comes with Southern history and hence is unfair to the many racially and ethnically diverse students who attend UT.

Though embarrassing, our University’s past must not be forgotten, and thus we must keep our blemishes. Just as our country cannot forget its past of slavery, as a mechanism to ensure this institution and other forms of human rights violations are never carried out again, we have to remember the University’s racist beginnings.

Gordon’s tour is an eye-opening lesson about the racism in our campus’ history, and I suggest that all students attend Gordon’s racial geography and history tour. It could even be included in New Student Orientation. We should also include an introductory race relations and gender course in the required curriculum. This course could highlight the plight of minorities in our country and illustrate the wrongful stereotypes they face as a means to help eliminate racism and discrimination.

We still have a long way to go before the problems of institutionalized and overt racism are widely recognized on our campus. After overhearing students wonder why we have a lounge on campus named after Malcolm X but that we had to rename Simkins Dormitory, I strongly feel the entire student body must be educated about race relations. The landmarks should remain on campus as a lesson to all.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.

METHUEN, Mass. — School officials in a Massachusetts town are apologizing for sending home a lunch menu that listed KKK Chicken Tenders as an option.

About 6,500 students in four Methuen (muh-THOO’-in) schools went home with new menus Tuesday, a day after the original one mistakenly listed chicken seemingly in the style of the Ku Klux Klan.

Superintendent Judith Scannell tells The Eagle-Tribune the menu was supposed to list KK Chicken Tenders, with the KK standing for a creatively spelled “Krispy, Krunchy,” but an employee mistakenly hit the “K’’ key one too many times.

Scannell apologized if anyone was offended. The food service director got one complaint.

A student pointed out to WCVB-TV that it there would’ve been no issue if officials just spelled the words correctly, with the letter C.

Published on Thursday, March 1, 2012: 2012 as: Massachusetts schools apologize for racist mistake

A controversial flier depicting President William Powers Jr., and College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl as members of the Ku Klux Klan created a rift within student activist group The Students Speak. Several members of the organization created the flier last week without consent of the group in response to proposed cuts to the specialized ethnic and identity studies centers. There will be no administrative representation Tuesday at The Students Speak open forum to discuss the cuts because of insufficient notice and the flier passed out at last week’s question-and-answer session, the liberal arts deans said. Caitlin Eaves, a group member and religious studies senior, said the flier made her feel uncomfortable because it was inaccurate and did not represent the majority opinion. “For one, institutional racism and KKK terrorizing aren’t synonymous struggles, but the biggest problem was that there wasn’t consensus about the flier,” she said. Eaves said the group’s diversity of ideas are much needed and appreciated, but members must be able to understand each other and their beliefs. “We need the organizers who will create a mission statement, but we also need the sit-ins and the walk-outs,” she said. “Most importantly, we need mutual respect for each other within our movement.” The group’s Facebook page, intended to be a public channel of conversation for members and interested students, was the medium for a series of heated exchanges between group members. The flier was one of many issues concerning activism the group disagreed on, including means of protest and communication. Tatiana Young, a women’s and gender studies graduate student and member of the organization, said the Facebook disagreement was a teachable moment that everyone in the organization could learn from. “It has made us sit down and hammer out some organizational stuff and to be mindful of the challenges of organizing,” Young said. “We’ve restructured TSS to work more as a community assembly and to work on a modified consensus.” Young said although the flier was divisive, she does not believe that is the sole reason the liberal arts deans are refusing to attend the forum. Young said even if there was no flier, she doesn’t think Associate Dean Richard Flores would have attended. Leticia Silva, a Latin American studies senior and member of the organization, said she did not feel the cartoon was as controversial as it was made out to be because it was intended to make students think. “It’s a political cartoon, it’s supposed to be thought-provoking,” Silva said. “Maybe they don’t go out in the streets wearing white hoods, but they are still affecting people of color in a real way.” Although College of Liberal Arts administrators will not be present at the forum Tuesday, Diehl said he is committed to having student input as he considers the budget cut proposal. “As I make my decisions about the college budget, I will continue to meet with registered student organizations and leaders who have demonstrated a willingness to have a serious and respectful discussion,” Diehl said. “They are an important part of this consultative process.” Diehl did not mention the flier, and Powers could not be reached for comment.