PD Editorial: Controversial George Washington mural stays put at San Francisco school

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One school won’t be getting a fresh coat of paint this year — and that’s good news. The San Francisco Board of Education rescinded its order to paint over a series of murals at George Washington High School because they depict some unpleasant truths about American history.

The 13 panels, created as part of a New Deal art program when the school was built in the 1930s, show scenes from Washington’s life, including one showing the first president’s slaves at Mount Vernon, another showing a Native American with a scalp dangling from his waist and a third showing a dead Native American at Washington’s feet. Some people consider the frescoes offensive, and the school board voted in June to destroy them.

Many Washington High alumni, among others, objected, arguing that the murals should be preserved and used as a teaching tool. We concurred in an editorial that noted the artwork was created to condemn slavery and murder (“By destroying mural, SF aims to sanitize history,” Editorial, July 25). On Tuesday, the school board voted to preserve the murals but conceal them from view. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than whitewashing history.

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