Readers React: Study San Francisco’s George Washington mural, don’t paint over it

Students walk past a historic mural that includes slaves and a dead Native American at George Washington High School in San Francisco.
(Yalonda M. James / San Francisco Chronicle)

To the editor: Artists depict what we see or feel. The process creates a pictorial record of events. It is what it is. (“San Francisco to spend up to $600,000 to paint over George Washington mural,” July 4)

Years later, we may not like what we see in that visual record and want to do things differently. Slavery is one such example. We as a people don’t engage in that practice now. But, it was part of our history that no amount of painting over will change.

Instead of applying a coat of paint over the San Francisco public school mural depicting the life of George Washington, therefore symbolically erasing the depiction from memory, why not celebrate the fact that the work is the result of the Federal Art Project, a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that helped lift the U.S. out of the Great Depression?

Look at it. Confront it. Learn from it. Ask questions about it. And support any artist who is talented and courageous enough to engage in the process of recording events which form a record of our history.


Karen Scott Browdy, Fillmore


To the editor: The Roman Catholic Church is held responsible for the subjugation of the Native American population of California in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet we continue to celebrate the prominence of that church in our state.

The city and county of San Francisco bear the name of St. Francis, one of the church’s most revered figures. Our own city, Los Angeles, is derived from an earlier name that translates, in part, to “Queen of the Angels.” The capital of our state, Sacramento, refers to a most important ceremony conducted in the Catholic Church.


Would we banish those names and all the others too numerous to mention in pursuit of the hypocrisy of historical destruction? It is time to call a halt to this mindless idiocy.

Louis H. Nevell, Los Angeles

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