Sometimes, I do believe we have lost our minds, culturally, in this country, and the push to destroy beautiful, historic Depression-era murals, done through the WPA by a famous artist, is exhibit A. 

Victor Arnautoff, a Russian-american, left-leaning artist, did the murals, using a rare and difficult technique where he painted over wet plaster and so had to finish each day's mural that same day, before the plaster dried. Because he used this technique, the murals cannot be removed from the walls. They either have to be left in place or painted over.

The murals were done in the 1930s in the hallways of George Washington high school in San Francisco and they depict Washington in various stylized settings, at Mt. Vernon in one instance and, in another, standing over a map with other "founding fathers" while he points the way to westward expansion. 

The mural at Mt. Vernon shows several of Washington's slaves at work. The other one shows frontiersman setting off for the west, walking past (or over) the body of a dead American Indian. Arnautoff's intent was to show the grim realities of American life at the time — the slavery that was the basis of Washington's wealth and the country's wealth, the cheating of Native Americans and their slaughter perpetrated by white settlers like Washington. 

Incredibly, though, it is left-leaning students and school administrators and board members who are now advocating for the murals to be destroyed. The pictures are offensive, they say, because they show the humiliation and oppression of African-Americans and Native Americans.

They do show humiliation and oppression, and that is the reality of our history. That is the truth, which is what schools should be teaching, not a whitewash. But these misguided folks want a whitewash.


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Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at will@poststar.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at



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