ThinkProgress reports that a battle is brewing over a courthouse mural in Jefferson County, Ala. The mural in question shows Black fieldworkers being overseen by a white man on horseback. The mural was commissioned in 1934 during Jim Crow and represents the Old South. The NAACP has asked for the mural to be removed and has already secured the support of three of the five county commissioners.
County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said the mural denigrates Black people.
“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 said in an interview with CBS affiliate WIAT.
The courthouse also has swastikas etched into it, although the swastika was an image used by some Native Americans before it was adopted by the Nazis. Daniel Odrezin, assistant executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, said the swastika is now associated with hate.
“Given the anti semitism 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,” Odrezin told WIAT.
However, local historians are in favor of preserving the mural, which was painted by John Warner Norton, a famous artist of his day.
“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,” said Linda Nelson, executive secretary of the Jefferson County Historical Commission in an interview with WIAT.
Commissioner Brown argued that if Jefferson County wanted to be seen as a forward-thinking place, it couldn’t hang onto images which essentially support white supremacy.
“We’re going to rebrand a new Jefferson County,” Brown told ABC 33/40. “It cannot be a new Jefferson County with a 1934 picture of injustice and racism, Blacks picking cotton at the feet of white woman. I don’t think the majority of the people in Jefferson County really would want that.”