Veterans Win: U. of Rhode Island Will Not Destroy WWII Murals

"American servicemen and women gather in front of 'Rainbow Corner' Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the Japanese" By McNulty, August 15, 1945 (Source: National Archives)
U.S. National Archives

The University of Rhode Island (URI) has decided to keep two murals depicting the events of World War II and immediately after. The school had initially planned to remove the murals last year, after students complained they lacked diversity. The university states that it will add “necessary context” to inform students that “the original intent of the murals to depict life on campus at the time they were created.”

“The University’s Senior Leadership Team has decided to uncover and preserve the 1950s-era murals,” URI said in a recent announcement posted to its website.

Last year, URI announced it would be removing the postwar-era murals after students claimed that the paintings were not compatible with the school’s values of inclusivity, because “the persons painted and depicted on the wall are predominantly white.”

Now, URI says the artwork can stay, under the condition that “necessary context” is added adjacent to the murals, “about the artist’s contributions/services to the country, university and community,” as well as “regarding the original intent of the murals to depict life on campus at the time they were created.”

In addition to adding “necessary context,” URI says it will also “commission a new work of art to depict diverse university life as it is today, to be installed in the Memorial Union in similar size and impact to the existing murals.”

In its announcement, the university added that the school had covered the WWII murals last summer in order “to protect them while discussions were held with the campus community and alumni about the future of the murals.”

The University of Rhode Island is not the only school to be faced with censorship of its own murals.

Last year, Vermont Law School claimed it had the right to cover the murals, “The Underground Railroad Vermont and the Fugitive Slave,” telling the artist who painted them that the murals did “not aged well,” according to a report by Valley News.

Last summer, “in the wake of George Floyd’s slaying” and “the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement,” the University of Oregon decided to cover a number of 1930s-era murals depicting Native Americans, according to a report by the school’s student newspaper, Around the O.

In 2019, Breitbart News reported that George Washington High School in San Francisco, California, decided that they would erase an “offensive” mural of George Washington.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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