School Board Votes to Paint Over George Washington Mural In San Francisco

Joshua Nelson

Joshua Nelson

Society,

We explain why.

The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted last month in favor of painting over a George Washington mural series on a school wall depicting Washington standing over a Native American’s corpse and another in the company of slaves on his Mount Vernon estate.

“This is reparations,” Education Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez said in a KQED report when asked about the estimated $600,000 price tag for its removal. It could reportedly take a year to complete.

The 1,600-square-foot mural series titled “Life of Washington” was painted on San Francisco’s George Washington High School in 1936 by a Russian-American artist and Stanford University art professor Victor Arnautoff.

It was funded by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and shows a variety of scenes from Washington’s life.

School district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick confirmed that although only two mural pieces stand out as offensive to members of the community, the board’s decision would apply to all 13 panels of the mural.

School board members had to decide whether to cover and preserve the painting using panels or textile, or completely erase it by painting over it. Buckling under pressure from those who find the images offensive to certain members of the school community, the board decided to paint over it.

Advocates for removing the mural included local high school students, George Washington High School graduates, and Native Americans.

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