University of Kentucky to Remove a Large Mural With Demeaning Racial Images

During the Great Depression, Ann Rice O’Hanlon painted a 38 feet wide, 11 feet tall mural on Kentucky history in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. The mural depicted enslaved African American hunched in a field, Black musicians playing for White dancers, and a Native American threatening a White settler with a tomahawk. In 2015, the university draped sheets over the mural. In 2018 a new art installation in the hall, meant to counteract what many regarded as offensive images from Kentucky’s past, was placed on the ceiling of the hall where the mural was once again displayed.

Amidst the nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky issued a statement that read in part: “We have discussed the mural for many years and made a number of important, productive efforts to seek common ground and lasting solutions. But the spaces we have created for dialogue, and the work we have commissioned to expand conversation and contextualize art, haven’t worked. Our efforts and solutions with the mural, for many of our students, have been a roadblock to reconciliation, rather than a path toward healing. I am directing our facilities team to immediately begin the process of removing the mural in Memorial Hall.”

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