Historian John Templeton showed off the damage done recently to this sculpture carved from a single tree. It reclines in a small square in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood.
Templeton believes the vandalism is a symbol of the disappearing black presence in the city.
"When a piece like this starts being damaged, it's a sign of the larger decline of the community," Templeton said.
Templeton is convinced the statue is the work of famed sculptor Sargent Johnson, one of the first African American artists living in the Bay Area to gain national recognition.
Work by famed African American sculptor Sargent Johnson is being vandalized. SF historian wants it protected/moved. pic.twitter.com/TZwupqPU7E— carolyn tyler (@ctylerabc7) September 16, 2015
Johnson created a 1936 piece that's still at Washington High School in San Francisco. His work is everywhere including in prominent San Francisco museums. Not everyone is convinced the statue at the park is his.
"I grew up in the Western Addition playing on this piece, but I'm no Sargent Johnson expert. I respect his work. I'm not 100 percent certain," said San Francisco supervisor London Breed.
Breed says the city is working to identify the piece and it may be temporarily moved to protect it.
"It's got to go. It's got to go from here," Templeton said. "It's not safe here."
For decades kids played on this sculpture. Now it's being vandalized. Historians want SF officials to move it! pic.twitter.com/W25UcpyhK0— carolyn tyler (@ctylerabc7) September 16, 2015