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Controversy Over School Mural Depicting Slavery, Colonization

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 (Photo: Drew Bloksberg)

The San Francisco Unified School District superintendent and staff are considering a working group recommendation to remove and archive the “Life of Washington” mural at George Washington High School. The fresco mural by leftist painter Victor Arnautoff was commissioned under the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. It depicts scenes of slavery, and a dead Native American. Critics of the mural say the imagery glorifies genocide and can be dehumanizing for Native American and black students. Those in favor of keeping it in place worry that removing the mural would create a troubling precedent for other public artworks. Forum considers the controversial “Life of Washington” mural.


Stevon Cook, president, San Francisco Board of Education

Paloma Flores, program coordinator, Indian Education Program at San Francisco Unified School District Office of Access & Equity

Will Maynez, steward, Diego Rivera Mural Project, City College of San Francisco


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