Debate over controversial murals at a San Francisco high school heats up

SAN FRANCISCO -- A decision could soon be made about the future of controversial murals at a San Francisco's George Washington High School that depict the oppression of Native Americans and African Americans.

The murals were painted by a Russian artist in 1936, the year the school opened.

The fresco is called "Life of Washington."

As students enter the school they come across a mural with colonizers stepping over the dead body of a Native American. Another shows enslaved African Americans.

During the civil rights movement, some students at the school protested.

As a result, another mural was painted showing different ethnic races in a more positive light.

What to do about the murals will ultimately fall to the San Francisco Unified School District board, but the community is divided.

"It's important to confront history, not erase history," said John Rothmann.

He is leading an organized campaign to save the murals at George Washington High School.

Rothmann says the murals can be used as a way to discuss the sins of our past.

"We've talked about all sorts of vehicles and methods to keep the murals but use them in a more effective fashion."

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney re-initiated the discussion about what to do with the murals a few years ago when he was a school board member.

"You shouldn't have to look up and see depictions of your ancestors either being killed or enslaved, that's not the kind of supportive school environment that all of our children and their families deserve," said Haney.

Recently a working group was formed to hear from the public. That group eventually voted to archive and remove the entire work of art.

"I support the decision of the working group and I'm waiting to see what the plan of action is going to be," said Stevon Cook the school board president.

Now it's up to the Superintendent to consider the best course of action before any kind of recommendation is sent to the school board.

No date has been set to vote on any kind of action.
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