School Board Won't Destroy Controversial Washington Mural

SF high school will cover it up instead
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2019 7:26 AM CDT
School Board Won't Destroy Controversial Washington Mural
The controversial 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural, the "Life of Washington" by Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, is seen at George Washington High School during an open house for the public in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

A controversial George Washington mural at San Francisco's George Washington High School is going to survive—behind panels. In a 4-3 vote Tuesday, San Francisco's school board reversed an earlier decision and decided to cover the mural with panels instead of simply painting over it, NBC reports. The mural, painted in 1936 by Russian-American muralist Viktor Arnautoff, was intended to show students the realities of history and depicts black slaves at George Washington's farm and the body of a Native American killed during the westward expansion of the US. It will be covered up with panels depicting "the heroism of people of color in America, how we have fought against, and continue to battle discrimination, racism, hatred, and poverty," says school board president Stevon Cook.

The board voted to destroy the historic mural in June, but decided to bring the issue back for another vote after an international outcry, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The mural's critics argued that students shouldn't have to look at such images every day. "I think we all agree that the mural depicts a history of the country that’s hard to see," Cook said before Tuesday's vote. Actor Danny Glover, who attended the high school in the early 1960s, was among those arguing for preservation Tuesday. "You have to feel uncomfortable to sense what the past is and how the past is connected to ... the present, and the future," he said. (Covering up the mural won't be cheap.)

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