San Francisco School Board to vote on future of controversial murals at George Washington High School

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's School Board will vote tonight on the future of a series of controversial murals at George Washington High School. The murals depict the oppression of Native Americans and African Americans.

Today a small group of opponents of the murals met privately with a school board member inside George Washington High School to take a closer look at the work of art called "Life of Washington."

Amy Anderson, a Native American parent who reignited the call for the murals to be removed, spoke with ABC7 News. Her son attends is a senior here. She was joined by others wearing T-shirts calling for the murals to be taken down.

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"It is known the kids will say 'meet me under the dead Indian' for lunch or after school. It's a common meet up place and so when he hears that and sees it, it does hurt," Anderson said.

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 next to George Washington.

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The work was done in 1936 by Russian artist Victor Arnautoff, the year the school opened.

John Rothmann is head of the school alumni association who says Arnautoff never wanted to portray Washington as a saint.

"What he wanted to do is to say there were injustices and so he painted in slavery, he painted a dead Indian, so what we should be doing is saying 'let's build what Arnautoff wanted which is to expose the injustices,'" said Rothmann.

During the Civil Rights Movement, some students at the school protested. At that time, another mural was painted showing different ethnic races in a more positive light.

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Then and now, Arnautoff's murals at Washington High have been controversial with both sides trying to push their point across.

"It's better to confront history than erase it," added Rothmann.

"Just because it's historic doesn't mean that it's right and has to be here forever," expressed Kevine Boggess, political director of the non-profit group Coleman Advocates. He wants the murals removed.

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