In 1934, Ann Rice O'Hanlon painted a fresco -- then the largest one ever painted by a woman -- in the University of Kentucky's Memorial Hall. Ever since, thousands of students have walked past it on their way to and from various events each semester. Some have been oblivious to the work, which depicts Kentucky's history, while others have admired it and considered it an outstanding example of the Depression-era Public Works of Art program, which paid for the fresco.
Many black students over the years have noticed the mural, which offers a version of history that includes black people working in tobacco fields, black musicians performing for a group of white people and a Native American holding a tomahawk. As campus protests over issues of race have spread in recent weeks, black students at Kentucky held a meeting with President Eli Capilouto and talked about how the fresco hurt them by relegating black people to roles as slaves or servants, without portraying the cruelty of slavery and Jim Crow. On Monday, Capilouto announced his agreement that the mural's location is inappropriate.Why do I find myself thinking of fig leaves on Michaelangelo's David?
If you don't want anyone to know about slavery and America's dark past, fine, we can give you a cleaned up, unoffensive American history where slavery is not mentioned. Or perhaps they would prefer a mural where a black man is climbing out of the LEM on to the Moon's surface.