SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — Actor Danny Glover, a San Francisco Washington High graduate, on Monday compared plans to paint over the controversial mural at the school to a “book burning.”
Glover said his “record is clear and unambiguous” on race relations and urged San Francisco school officials to leave the mural up and use it as a teaching tool.
“As a Washington High graduate, I’ve spent my entire life fighting for freedom and the right of artistic expression,” Glover said in a statement. ” Whether it was being in the forefront to bring about the first Black Studies Department in the country at San Francisco State or being involved in films like The Color Purple and most recently the Last Black Man in San Francisco, my record is clear and unambiguous.”
He said as a student he viewed the mural as “a reminder of the horrors of human bondage.”
“I am for freedom of expression and against artistic censorship,” the famed actor said in his statement. “I view (Victor) Arnautoff’s murals, as they were for me, a reminder of the horrors of human bondage and the mistreatment of native peoples, even by the father of our country. To destroy them or block them from view would be akin to book burning. We would be missing the opportunity for enhanced historic introspection this moment has provided us.”
Glover joined dozens of artists and art community leaders, civil rights leaders, educators, George Washington High School alumni and San Francisco residents to call for the murals to remain up.
The controversial mural entitled “The Life of Washington” was painted by Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression.
In addition to depicting President George Washington as a soldier, surveyor and statesman, the 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot (149-square-meter) mural contains images of white pioneers standing over the body of a Native American and slaves working at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.
Over the years, many students have found it offensive. In June, the school board voted unanimously to have it painted over.