After much debate within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the board of education voted unanimously last week to remove murals at George Washington High School that show the first president alongside racist images of Native Americans and enslaved Black people.
The controversy over the artwork—which depicts the life of George Washington in 13 murals, including one that shows him “walking over a body of a Native American,” according to Donna Graves, a historian and cultural planner who is studying New Deal era buildings and artwork in San Francisco—has been in effect since the 1960s, when students decried the work offensive. Half a century later, during the last meeting of the academic year, the school board finally found a resolution.
“There’s been this whole discussion about Whitewashing history as if a mural is the only way to talk about history or as if that history is an accurate depiction of the full experiences of people of that time,” Stevon Cook, the board’s president, told The New York Times on Friday (June 28). “I think that argument really limits the nuances in how dynamic that time was and all the contributions African slaves made to the country, that indigenous Americans gave to settlers. To think that those two depictions are it is baffling.”
While the school board hasn’t yet confirmed if it will cover the murals with paint or new panels, the work will reportedly be completed over the next two years.