A mural painted by local artists to celebrate Black history was vandalized on Saturday, Dec. 18, in St. Louis, Missouri. Police say they will use video from cameras in the area to attempt to identify those responsible for painting over the faces of prominent African-Americans such as businesswoman Annie Malone, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and actor Chadwick Boseman.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the mural called “The Story That Never Ends,” created to celebrate the history of Black people in America, was the target of the defacement.
Located on Washington University’s campus on the wall of a pedestrian tunnel known as the “South 40 Underpass,” the artwork was created by six artists to “create the vibrant and emotionally stirring Underpass mural, bringing a message of social justice to the space.”
Over the weekend those messages were replaced with ones that represent hate and white supremacy.
Chancellor Andrew Martin and three other school officials expressed outrage in a letter to students and staff on Sunday. It read in part, “This is horrifying and distressing. We’re shocked and saddened by this hateful act on our campus.”
Students on campus not only alerted the administration but took it upon themselves to clean up the graffiti, some that included the logo of a white supremacist hate group established in 2017 around the time of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, before the school could get to it.
The administration is working with the police to find the culprits, further stating in the letter “We will be able to identify and hold these individuals responsible for their disgraceful actions.”
The Daily Beast reports the school will be offering to counsel to any student hurt by the hateful act.
“Washington University stands unequivocally against hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination in any form. There is no place on our campus for these behaviors and this type of harmful action will not be tolerated or ignored,” the letter read.
“This incident is a painful reminder that we have a great deal of work to do — as a society and as a university community — to create and maintain an environment where all feel welcome, supported, and safe,” the letter continued. “We remain committed to putting our values into action to help create needed change, both within ourselves as individuals, and collectively in our community, country and world.”
Featured on the mural are historic figures such as Black civil rights lawyer Homer G. Phillips, and businesswoman Annie Malone, who was Madam C.J. Walker’s mentor and a major benefactor of the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.
Other prominent African-Americans on the mural include the man that coined the term “ebonics,” professor Robert L. Williams, and George Poage, a hurdler who won two bronze medals in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, becoming the first African-American to win an Olympic medal.
Washington University officials vowed that the vandalism will not thwart the institution’s efforts in diversity and inclusion, with the letter ending: “The mural has been a source of pride and inspiration for our university community, and we will not let this act of cowardice deter us from celebrating our rich cultural histories, especially the outstanding contributions of people who have led the way toward greater equity and understanding.”
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