Actor Danny Glover, a San Francisco native and one of the most famous alums of George Washington High School, compared the decision to remove the controversial “Life of Washington” mural to “book burning” on Monday.
In June, the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to paint over the mural, which shows George Washington, the first president of the United States, standing over a dead indigenous person and an image of enslaved African American. The mural was painted in 1936 by Victor Arnautoff and commissioned by the New Deal-era Federal Art Project.
On Tuesday evening, Stevon Cook, the school board president, announced a plan to cover the mural instead of painting over it, destroying it or otherwise removing it.
“I think we all agree that the murals depict a history of the country that is hard to see and everyone agrees that that history is racist,” Cook told KPIX. “I think where we disagree is if it’s appropriate for a school site.”
Mark Sanchez, the vice president of the school board, said in June that removing the mural would serve as a “fresh start.”
“It’s always an issue when anyone wants to remove or cover or displace art,” he said, according to an article from the Washington Post. “But there are countervailing issues we had to look at as well. We believe students shouldn’t be exposed to violent imagery — that it’s degrading.”
But Glover said in a statement to KPIX on Monday that the mural served as “a reminder of the horrors of human bondage” and “the mistreatment of native peoples” when he was a student at the school.
“To destroy them or block them from view would be akin to book burning,” he said. “We would be missing the opportunity for enhanced historic introspection this moment has provided us.”
Glover said that he’s spent his “entire life fighting for freedom and the right of artistic expression,” and cited his activism and acting in his statement on the mural.
He referenced his leadership during the 134-day shutdown of San Francisco State University’s campus in 1968 and ’69 that led to the creation of the nation’s first black studies department. He also mentioned his portrayal of characters in films such as “The Color Purple” and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” both films that chronicle the experiences of black people dealing with race relations in the U.S.
Advocates for the removal of the mural told KTVU that they are offended by the images depicting a dead indigenous person and a slave.
“It is a racist mural,” Virginia Marshall, who’s with the Alliance of Black School Educators, told KTVU. “My history should not be racist but it is. I came from slaves.”
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/danny-glover-life-washington-mural-removal-sfusd-14302359.php.