The NAACP chapter in Jefferson County, Ala. is arguing that a mural depicting slaves picking cotton while a White overseer watches should be removed from the county courthouse, Think Progress reports.
The mural, made to represent the “Old South,” was installed at the entrance of the building in 1934; a time when Black people were under the scourge of Jim Crow laws in the nation. The chapter is also requesting that swastikas carved into the building be removed. Advocates say the symbol and the mural are “racist and offensive.”
From Think Progress:
Commissioner Sandra Little Brown took a strong stance against keeping the mural as is. “This is a place where you come in for justice for all. You come in and pay your taxes. Everybody pays them; Black, White, Hispanic, everybody pays your taxes so you don’t want to see something that caters to a certain group. Way back in 1934? Picking cotton? That time is over now,” she explained to CBS affiliate WIAT.
Likewise, Commission president David Carrington is using the fight over the mural to push for the removal of the swastikas etched into the courthouse’s stone. “I think we need to be very cautious about the images we project to others,” he told WIAT.
Assistant Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation (BJF) Daniel Odrezin agrees. “We’re certainly appreciative of the sensitivity of members of the commission. Given the antisemitism that’s associated with it today, and obviously given that it’s something that we would welcome if people felt it was appropriate to remove. It’s certainly not something that we, as the Jewish Federation, are calling for,” he said, noting BJF is not officially part of the commissioner’s effort.
The process of removing relics of America’s “Old South” is reminiscent of the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina State House grounds earlier this summer. While many argued that the presence of the flag dredged up a painful history of Black enslavement and oppression in this country — even more so following the Emanuel AME church massacre in July — others were concerned that burying the symbols would erase history. Linda Nelson, the executive secretary of the Jefferson County Historical Commission, is one of those people.
“We do have to be sensitive to the meanings of things, but to destroy good art and representative art that comes with the building? It would really be too bad, it would be a great loss,” she said, speaking to WIAT. She argues the mural should be preserved because it was painted by John Warner Norton, a famous artist in his day. And when the swastikas were added to the courthouse stones, they were not viewed as controversial or hateful. Their imagery was tarnished by the Nazis, way after the fact.
Already garnering support of three of the county’s five commissioners, the NAACP plans to continue their effort to remove the symbols.
SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter
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