SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A plan to replace a controversial mural at a San Francisco high school is getting pushback from several local African American leaders.

They want the school board to change its mind and preserve the mural. The group is also starting a petition that could allow the mural to stay.

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The controversial mural entitled “The Life of Washington” has been on display at Washington High School since 1936.

It shows George Washington as a slave owner. On one panel, a Native American man is seen lying dead at the feet of white explorers.

Over the years, many students have found it offensive. In June, the school board voted unanimously to have it painted over.

This past weekend, over 100 people crowded into the lobby of the school in San Francisco’s Richmond District to view a controversial mural.

But on Monday, a group of local African American leaders said they think that is the wrong approach.

“We cannot continue to cut out the things that make us uncomfortable, or we will never grow,” said Rev. Arnold G. Townsend, a Northern California NAACP Branch Officer.

The gathered leaders said the debate is at the intersection of art, censorship and history. The Reverend Amos Brown, President of San Francisco chapter of the NAACP says it is a question of balance.

“It takes two wings for a bird to fly, two wings for an airplane to stay up in the air. That mural must not come down,” said Brown.

“Save it. Learn from it. Teach from it,” said Noah Griffin, a former student body president at Washington High.

There are other petitions being circulated about the mural, including one that would put the issue on the ballot for San Francisco voters to decide.

SFUSD officials say it may cost as much as $600,000 to paint over the mural, including legal costs.

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