Mural of George Washington seen as racist and set to be destroyed draws a crowd

The San Francisco mural, which includes images of Washington, slaves and a dead Native American, is seen as racist by some, but defended as social criticism by others.

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By David K. Li

More than 100 people filled the lobby of a San Francisco high school on Thursday to see a mural of George Washington that has been ordered destroyed because its depiction of slaves and the subjugation of Native American is deemed by some to be racist.

The San Francisco United School District allowed the public inside George Washington High School to see the 13-panel, 1,600-square work "Life of Washington," which the school board voted on June 25 to paint over.

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The massive mural shows Washington at various points in his life, with images of slaves working at his Mount Vernon home and a dead Native American killed in America's westward expansion.

People fill the main entryway of George Washington High School to view the 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural, the "Life of Washington," during an open house for the public on Thursday in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP

A majority of those who came to see the mural, take pictures and snap selfies seemed to be against its destruction, NBC Bay Area reported. The artwork, painted in 1935 by Russian immigrant Victor Arnautoff, was intended as a harsh critique of Washington's legacy as America's first president.

"Most people are painting glossy pictures of our founding fathers, and this is very contrary to that," said the artist's grandson Paul Arnautoff, who attended the public viewing.

But others, like Linda Fadeke Richardson, who is African American, backed the school board and said the images in front of her were “derogatory.''

People fill the main entryway of George Washington High School to view the controversial 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural, the "Life of Washington," during an open house for the public on Aug. 1, 2019, in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP

"There is a notion we have to keep this as a remembrance for Native Americans, for African Americans, for people who have been oppressed," she said. "Anywhere we find these kind of images, they need to be abolished."

The school board has not set a date for the mural's destruction.

Supporters of the mural still have hope of saving it, perhaps through a future referendum for San Francisco voters to decide the fate of "Life of Washington."

People fill the main entryway of George Washington High School to view the controversial 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural, the "Life of Washington," during an open house for the public on Aug. 1, 2019, in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP