San Francisco school board votes to cover controversial George Washington mural

SAN FRANCISCO — A controversial mural depicting images of slavery and dead Native Americans at a San Francisco high school will be left in place but covered with solid panels.

The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education voted 4-3 on Tuesday to cover the “Life of Washington” mural at George Washington High School without destroying it.

This vote amends a previous decision. In June, the board had decided to paint over the mural or, if painting would cause too much delay, cover the painting with panels.

Tuesday’s vote eliminates the option to paint over the mural.

The mural was created in 1935 by Victor Arnautoff and has stirred controversy because of depictions such as enslaved Africans working in cotton fields on George Washington’s estate and white settlers stepping over the body of a dead Native American, according to a fact sheet posted on the school district’s website.

“Where we all agree is that the mural depicts the racist history of America, especially in regards to African Americans and Native Americans,” school board president Stevon Cook said.

“It is important that we all share the agreement and acknowledgment of racism, discrimination, and the dehumanizing of people of color and women in American history.”

The mural will no longer be on public view at the school but will be digitized so art historians can access it.

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