REASON -- The truth is that George Washington High School’s mural is provocative by design. It was painted in 1936 by a Russian-American artist named Victor Arnautoff, who held leftist sympathies. Arnautoff did not wish to blindly celebrate Washington while ignoring the less savory aspects of the American founding, and thus he depicted the first president working his slaves and sending men to confiscate Native American lands. It was an attempt to remind students that history is a lot messier than what they read in class.
“He put those ghastly gray pioneers literally walking over the dead body of an Indian to demonstrate that the settlement of the west was an act of conquest that involved the slaughter of Native Americans,” Robert Cherny, a San Francisco State University professor, told the school district’s board of education in 2018. “That was a very bold effort on his part to counter the kinds of textbooks that students were seeing.”