Calls for the removal of monuments that honor racist and problematic themes in American history have resulted in school names being changed and statues in capital cities coming down across the country. After last summer’s racial reckoning, people everywhere are finally recognizing just how distasteful it is to have constant reminders of racial injustice.
That’s what happened in Boone County when residents in Columbia, Mo., raised concerns about two murals that depicted an attempted lynching of a Black man and a white man pointing a gun at a Native American.
After hearing concerns from residents during a September council meeting, the Boone County Commission decided Thursday that the murals in the Boone County Courthouse had to come down.
Here’s what else was in the murals, according to the Kansas City Star:
The murals depict multiple scenes from Columbia’s history, including when Southern guerrillas terrorized Union loyalists in 1864. Another scene shows a white man being punished for stealing a cow. Three shirtless Black men also are shown chained by their ankles as they carry a plank.
The commission held a public hearing to discuss the murals on Sept. 28 at which the majority of those who spoke said the murals should be removed.
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, two of the three commissioners voted to remove the murals. Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill abstained, explaining that he didn’t believe the artist intended for the artwork to be offensive but he acknowledged times have changed since its installment during a renovation project in the 1990s. Atwill agreed that the murals should come down, but he wanted to make sure the artist, Sidney Larson, or his supporters, are not insulted by the removal.
Two orders regarding the mural were voted on during the commission meeting. The first order, which required the murals be kept in storage on site, was brought forward by Atwill and failed to receive support. The second order got a majority vote and will require the murals to be moved to another location to be kept safe.
Atwill previously proposed that a third mural can be made for the courthouse, but was met with pushback from the other two commissioners, the Tribune reports.
“The dominant theme that was gleaned from the presentation was that the murals, while originally well-intended, would currently be more appropriate to be displayed in a venue not where justice is administered and disputes are resolved,” Atwill said, according to the Tribune.
Well-intended? I mean, that’s up for debate.
Attorney Gary Oxenhandler led the charge in calling out the mural’s placement last month.
“Boone County can either be a justice leader or an embarrassing media soundbite,” he said at the hearing, according to the Tribune. “I have never met a person of color who needed to be reminded their ancestors were lynched by mobs or beaten by police.”