San Francisco school board reverses decision to paint over George Washington mural

San Francisco school board reverses decision to paint over George Washington mural
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The San Francisco Board of Education reversed its decision to paint over a historic school mural of George Washington after public outcry, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

In a 4-3 vote, the board decided not to repaint the mural but instead obscure it from public view.

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The board had initially voted to paint over the mural in June because of violent imagery and depictions of slavery.

The 13 murals at George Washington High School, painted in 1936 by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff during the New Deal era, include an image of Washington standing over a dead Native American as he points to white frontiersmen. Another shows Washington at Mount Vernon with his slaves. 

But others pushed back against covering the murals, saying that the images depict history and that destroying them amounts to censorship, the Chronicle reported.

The initial decision was protested by academics, artists, museum officials and the NAACP, as well as celebrities, including actor Danny Glover, who attended George Washington High School in the 1960s.

Glover said in a news conference Tuesday that art should make people uncomfortable. He noted that he has made several films that addressed difficult issues, including “The Color Purple.”

“Why board it up?” he said of the mural. “Why can’t we tell the truth?”

Before Tuesday's vote, Stevon Cook, the school board president, said he wanted to revisit the issue after hearing “much more input from the public” in recent weeks.

“I think we all agree that the mural depicts a history of the country that’s hard to see,” he said, according to the Chronicle.

The school district will now begin the process of obstructing the mural, through panels or another method.