Board Reverses Decision to Destroy ‘Offensive’ George Washington Mural

People fill the main entryway of George Washington High School to view the controversial 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural, the "Life of Washington," during an open house for the public Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a 100 people packed the public high school to view a controversial …
Eric Risberg/AP Photo

The controversial mural depicting George Washington will be covered with panels instead of paint, the San Francisco Board of Education voted Tuesday.

The vote, which passed 4–3, reverses the board’s decision in June that would have painted over the mural inside George Washington High School. The initial decision ignited a passionate debate about whether or not to destroy the artwork, which was deemed “offensive.”

The paintings, which depict slaves and Native Americans, will instead be obstructed from view.

Russian-American painter Victor Arnautoff created the mural in 1936, making it the “largest WPA-funded, single-artist mural suite on the Pacific Coast,” the Richmond District Blog noted in April.

The blog post read:

When Arnautoff created the George Washington mural series, he used the rare buon fresco process, painting with earth-tone pigments directly onto the building’s wet plaster before it dried. The artist covered about nine feet of wall per day, and worked ten to twelve hours per day.

In June, Breitbart News reported that Joel Britton, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, argued that the mural should be allowed to remain untouched.

“Destroying or covering it would be an act of censorship and a blow to freedom of expression that would set a precedent for further such actions,” he said. “Censorship creates precedents that will always come down hardest on the working class, including African American, Latinos, Native American, and Asian American working people.”

In a press release Wednesday, School Board President Stevon Cook said it is important that the nation’s “racist history” is acknowledged.

“Where we all agree is that the mural depicts the racist history of America, especially in regards to African Americans and Native Americans,” he commented. “It is important that we all share the agreement and acknowledgement of racism, discrimination, and the dehumanizing of people of color and women in American history.”


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