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Related Categories: San Francisco | Arts + Action
UPWA Statement KEEP the Arnautoff Murals at Washington High School!!!!!!!
by United Public Workers For Action
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 5:30 PM
UPWA has taken a stand against the destruction of the Victor Arnautoff murals at George Washinton High School in San Francisco. Speakers at a press conference talked about the history of the murals including the Coit Tower murals and the attacks by witch hunters on Victor Arnautoff who was a member of the Communist Party.
KEEP the Arnautoff Murals at Washington High School!
"Reparations" Paid By Taking Down Murals According to SFUSD Board President Mark Sanchez

United Public Workers for Action
UPWA Editorial Board
June 25, 2019

KEEP the Arnautoff Murals at Washington High School!!!!!!!

On June 25 the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education will vote on whether thirteen murals painted in the entrance of George Washington High School in 1936 by Russian émigré Victor Arnautoff should be destroyed or not. The Buon fresco-styled murals, which depict George Washington’s historical role accurately, have become not only a political controversy in San Francisco again, but one covered in the national and international press.

The controversy centers around local activists who want the murals destroyed, claiming that images portrayed in the murals are “traumatizing” to Native American and African American students. They specifically refer to the image of Washington pointing west while trappers step over a murdered Native American lying face down and African-American slaves working in the cotton fields at Mount Vernon. The activists also believe that the murals endorse “white supremacy.” They would like the school board to replace the murals with “affirming” images of Native Americans and African-Americans

The school board established the Reflection Action Committee in 2018 to make recommendations as to what should be done about the murals. That committee report, claiming that the murals glorify “slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.,” recommended that that they should be destroyed, white-washed or covered up. The vote was eight in favor of removal; one against; with two rescinded yes votes.

Scores of citizens and organizations locally and around the country have voiced opposition to the removal of the Arnautoff murals. They say that Arnautoff’s intention was not to glorify “slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.,” just the opposite. This is attested by his firm left-wing politics and commitment to social justice. They also stress that the murals are considered art of world significance, on the level of Diego Rivera’s murals. Further, destroying the murals would ironically be erasing a depiction of history that actually exposes the crimes and exploitation done to Native Americans and African-Ameri-cans. In fact, Arnautoff’s murals are a precursor to the contributions revisionist historians have made since the 1950’s to present a more inclusive and truthful history of the United States. What is also noted is that the murals were painted under the auspices of the New Deal-funded Works Progress Administration, making them of historical importance.

This situation would not have come about if the school board had understood the significance of the Arnautoff murals as well as the role they could play in the educational experience for students, parents and the San Francisco commu-nity. Rather, the school board and the SFUSD superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews reneged on its educational mission passing that responsibility to a committee made up largely of people pre-determined to eliminate the murals.

Susan Soloman, the President of the United Educators of San Francisco, has been strangely silent on this pressing First Amendment rights issue. This has also been true of San Francisco’s Democratic political establishment, starting with Mayor Breed’s office all the way to Speaker of the House, Pelosi.

Last week (June 18) at the SFUSD office a public discussion about the RAC report was held where those opposed to the destruction of the murals and advocates spoke out. Also, four members of the school board spoke in favor of destruction. Amazingly, School Board President Steven Cook supports destruction, having stated in a recent New York Times article that he opposes “violent images that are offensive to certain communities;” a view that could be construed as supporting censorship.

Nevertheless, the cost to remove the murals would range between $600,000 to $800,000; a colossal amount for a school district that has a shortage of teachers, counselors, and staff. Further, Lope Yap Jr., vice president of Washington’s alumni association, has said that if the school board decides to destroy the murals the association will sue the board; a proposition that would cost the district millions in legal fees.

The fact that the SFUSD school board would now consider spending potentially millions of dollars in an effort to destroy Arnautoff’s murals again raises the issue of why they are in the leadership of the school district. Also, the fact that school board and the superintendent have allowed this issue to fester and escalate to a national issue also raises the question of their educational and political competence.

The Arnautoff murals at Washington High School should not be destroyed. Instead, the school board should create a multi-media display in the entrance of Washington High which would inform students, working people and the community about: 1.) the complexity of George Washington’s role in American history; 2.) the extra-ordinary life of Victor Arnautoff; 3.) the Boun fresco process that Arnautoff used in painting the murals; and, 4.) the role the New Deal-funded Works Progress Administration played during the Great Depression in promoting artists and culture.

George Wright is Professor Emeritus from the Political Science Department at California State University Chico. He also taught History at Skyline Community College in San Bruno for eight years. Classes he has taught include: Black Politics in the United States, African-American History and the History of Ethnic Groups in California. He is a member of the United Public Workers for Action’s editorial board.

Destroying Arnautoff Murals As Payment For "Reparations"? SFUSD Bd Votes To Paint Over Historic Murals
The San Francisco Unified Schood District Board on June 25 voted unaimously to paint over and destroy the famed Victor Arnautoff murals on the the life of George Washington. United Public For Workers UPWA had a press conference before the vote about how this was attacking an artist actually exposed the role of George Washington in supporting slavery and the US's expansion which meant genocide against Native Americans.
The Superintendent Matthews had set up a hand picked committee that ended up only recommending the destruction or covering of the murals.
The same Superintendent and Board of Education have supported a racist union busting reactionary program called PAR Peer Assisted Review which has been used to bully and coerce African American, Latino and senior teachers to quit the district. Board Vice Chair and SFUSD school principal Mark Sanchez supports the PAR discipline program which is also supported by the UESF union leadership and he made an amendment to the motion to destroy the murals. He also said that the cost of destroying the murals was part of the cost of "reparations" to Native American people for the genocide against them.
For additional media:
SF Debates Removal Of Victor Arnautoff Murals At GWH
"Erasing History" SF Washington High & The Victor Arnautoff Murals
Victor Arnautoff: San Francisco's Master Muralist of the 1930's
When conservatives went to war over SF post office murals
These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?
Murals at Washington High School Stoke Debate: Board to Decide Their Fate
Murals at Washington High School Stoke Debate: Board to Decide Their Fate
Production of Labor Video Project

Don’t whitewash history
Historic murals depict uncomfortable truths about our nation’s past
Jun. 24, 2019 10:00 a.m.OPINION

By Matt Gonzalez

A controversy over murals painted in the lobby of a San Francisco High School in the 1930s has proponents of their removal comparing the murals to Confederate statues and labeling anyone who favors keeping them as fostering white supremacist culture. But these murals depict inconvenient historical facts that Americans should be aware of and taught to wrestle with. The 13-panel mural was painted by Victor Arnautoff, a Russian emigre, when George Washington High School opened in the Richmond District in 1936. Arnautoff, a muralist who worked with Diego Rivera and on the Coit Tower murals, was commissioned by the WPA to depict the life of our nation’s first president.

Resistant to glorifying George Washington and portraying him in strictly patriotic fashion, Arnautoff presented a history lesson reminding us that our Founding Fathers, who championed individual liberty, owned slaves. He inserted another historical truth: that our nation was founded by Europeans, who had decimated the native population under the veil of manifest destiny, which purportedly gave settlers the right to the land already occupied by others. As a result, the murals depict now controversial images of slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and a prostrate Native American, presumably killed, being passed by frontier settlers.

Today, opponents of the mural appear largely indifferent to what the offending images actually represent, preferring to view the images out of context as if they only depict slaves and a dead Indian. But wouldn’t it be more offensive had Arnautoff left out the history of slavery and the genocide of native peoples from his mural? Would these opponents of the mural prefer a sanitized depiction of history that omits the oppression of their ancestors?

Arnautoff tells an uncomfortable truth about our nation’s history: that this country was built over the bodies of other people. Washington and many signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. We shouldn’t paper over these truths; we should confront them. This was Arnautoff’s point. Students must see what preceded them in order to fight for justice and more decency.

Just this month, researchers published findings in Nature magazine that DNA from skeletal remains found in Siberia, in Eastern Russia, bear a striking similarity to Native Americans in the United States. These scientific findings confirm that migration over the Bering Strait brought the first people to our continent via a land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska. This fact reminds us that our past is intertwined as is our genetic makeup. Embracing commonalities and shared history can lessen the otherness necessary to perpetuate division.

The Arnautoff murals should also be preserved because they are artistically significant: they’re painted in an archaic fresco manner popular during the Renaissance, in which pigment is applied to wet plaster, something rarely seen today. It’s worth noting that Arnautoff didn’t run out of color when he painted the gray settlers marching past the fallen Native American. He cast a shadow over the scene making clear this was a solemn moment. Arnautoff depicted the scene with great empathy.

Dewey Crumpler, now an associate professor at San Francisco Art Institute, was commissioned to paint additional murals at George Washington HS in the 1970s. He considers his mural in dialogue with Arnautoff’s. Together they tell a compelling story of American history filled with Crumpler’s depiction of the struggle of people of color, which augment those by Arnautoff.

In his day, Arnautoff and his leftist contemporaries attracted the contempt of conservatives like Richard Nixon, who wanted their murals removed and objected to awarding commissions to them. Arnautoff was even subpoenaed by the House Unamerican Activities Committee to answer for his political views. Rather than attack a mural painted by an ally of theirs, opponents should focus on real villains — those who whitewash history by pretending terrible things didn’t once happen.

Matt Gonzalez is chief attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and a former president of the Board of Supervisors.

Analyzing the Controversial Victor Arnautoff Murals at George Washington High School with artist Dewey Crumpler

Professor and artist Dewey Crumpler defends the controversial Victor Arnautoff murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco.

Update on the Controversial Murals at George Washington High School
§UPWA George Wright Speaking To Defend Arnautoff Mural
by United Public Workers For Action
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 5:30 PM
Professor George Wright challenged the view that support for keeping the mural support for "white supremcy". He also called the move to destroy the murals censorship and a reactionary moment.
§Arnautoff Painted ILWU Longshoreman As An Integrated Workforce
by United Public Workers For Action
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 5:30 PM
Anti-racist Victor Arnautoff painted murals showing the multi-racial longshore ILWU Local 10. The murals he painted and made show the real history of the US which some want to destroy and for which he was hounded by Nixon and the FBI. Today some want to destroy these important and master Frescoe murals at George Washinton High
by United Public Workers For Action
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 5:30 PM
Native American Elder Robert Tamaka Bailey opposed the removal of the murals. He was also angry about being called a "white supremist" for supporting keeping the murals up.
§SFSUD Board Vice President Says Mural Destruction Is "Reparations"
by United Public Workers For Action
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 5:30 PM
Mark Sanchez on the left who is the Vice Chair of the SFUSD board and also a principal in the SFUSD school district argued that the massive cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to destroy the murals was part of the payment of "reparations" to the Native American people.
by Never Forgive, Never Forget
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2019 10:22 PM
Many thanks for your firm stand in support of the beloved Arnautoff murals. As we watched this farce of a school board meeting on cable channel TV in San Francisco on 6/25/19, we heard that the "concern" of these incompetent school board members was about violence being depicted in the murals, as if American history has been placid! One school board member said the children are not allowed to wear earrings in the shape of a gun because violence is not allowed in the schools. She apparently does not understand that the US military is violent by definition and it exists in all San Francisco public schools in the form of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) including Washington High School, which marches around the school in full military uniform and which teaches children to kill the workers of the world to maximize the profits of the oil companies and munitions makers, the only reason the military exists. Over the years, we have tried to get JROTC kicked out of San Francisco schools, with limited success. The US military also perpetrates rape within its own ranks and racism around the world.

Anyone who cares about art cannot destroy or cover up these beautiful, worthwhile murals. We heard endless screaming into the microphone by the opponents of the murals about test scores, the poverty in their communities and many other problems that exist in this society, none of which has anything to do with these murals. The reality is it will take more than a year for the Environmental Impact Report to get done, with the cost probably going up to $1 million from us taxpayers to prepare to destroy art. That alone should have earned a No vote on the proposal to destroy the murals. The certainty of a lawsuit with at least a temporary restraining order was mentioned, and that also was sufficient to earn a No vote for this travesty of destroying the murals as the taxpayers will have to pay to defend an incompetent school board's reactionary violent act against art, namely its destruction, probably in the millions of dollars as stated above. These bills will come due no sooner than 2020, perhaps later, and the school district does not have this money for this travesty.

Meanwhile, 2020 is an election year and every single incumbent school board member must be replaced with competent people who know that they swore to uphold the Constitution, including the First Amendment's free speech mandate, which oath of office was violated by this board.

Victor Arnautoff was a childhood hero who stood up to the witchhunters and we must not let his legacy be destroyed.

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