A historic Rogers County cornerstone is being viewed at as a stumbling block to progress, according to a local Black Lives Matter group, who want to see it removed from a Claremore museum.
Last week, a stone which had been taken from the wall of a stable erected by Will Rogers’ father, Clem was cited as being “offensive” as it includes a symbol currently known as a swastika.
The stone, which is part of the building shared by the Claremore Museum of History and the Lynn Riggs Memorial, bears the inscription “This cornerstone was taken from the wall of the old Sequoyah Livery Stable, erected by Clem Van Rogers, father of Wiliam Penn Adair Rogers.”
The stone also bears the initials C.V.R., floral trimming, the year 1902, and the symbol in question, which is only identifiable as a swastika in close proximity.
“We (the Claremore Museum of History) have been made aware of the request to remove this historical cornerstone from the museum building,” said Hays Gilstrap, chairman, Claremore Museum of History Board of Directors. “Of particular concern was a symbol imprinted on the cornerstone sometimes referred to as a swastika.
“The cornerstone was originally part of a livery stable built by Clem Rogers, the father of Will (Rogers),” he continued. “When the livery stable was sold, the money was used to build the Will Rogers Library in 1936. As part of the construction of the original library, the cornerstone from the stable was imbedded in the southeast corner of the building.
“The original library (building) now houses the Claremore Museum of History,” he said. “Both the building and the cornerstone are of historical significance and importance to the citizens of Claremore, Rogers County, and Oklahoma.”
The Black Lives Matter group disagreed.
Last week, Rev. Mareo Johnson, speaking on behalf of the group, described the stone as a “public representation of hate, regardless of what it meant then — it’s how people now see it.”
Rev. Johnson further said that while cornerstone itself is largely inoffensive, its inclusion of the swastika is the issue.
“The swastika sign is the main point — everything else (on the cornerstone) is fine, it’s just that symbol that’s connected to hate,” he said.
Historically, the symbol in question has been used in various cultures for more than 10,000 years, across countries and continents, and was even used by the Native Americans for hundreds of years, and can be found on historic Native American pottery, baskets, and weavings.
According to information found on the Ancient Origins website, the image has had various meanings through the centuries, such as symbolizing good fortune, prosperity, abundance, eternity, and has been found on the wall of Christian catacombs in Rome.
According to the 45h Infantry Division Museum, for the first 15 years of it’s existence, members of the 45h Infantry Division wore the symbol on their left shoulders as an ancient American symbol of good luck, and it served as recognition of the number of Native Americans serving in the 45th Infantry Division.
It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that the symbol became perceived as a symbol of hate.
“Though Nazi Germany used this symbol for a brief — but tragic — period of time, it doesn't dilute the positive influence that it has had for many cultures, including the Native Americans and the U.S. Military,” Gilstrap said. “It does, however provide an opportunity to learn more about our history for those who might want to see its removal and obliteration from existence.”
Ultimately, Gilstrap said “education” and “historical context” are key.
“It’s our desire that the original intent of the symbol is kept in mind,” Gilstrap said. “The continued display of the cornerstone will provide an opportunity for education and understanding of its historical significance,” he said.