Mural covered at Canton High School over concerns of its slavery images

Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 9:14 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A historical mural at Timken High School is now partially covered by a black and red school banner. The 195-foot-long mural depicts scenes throughout history, starting with Christopher Columbus up to a celebration of the First Amendment.

It includes scenes from WWII, The Alamo, The First Thanksgiving, The War of 1812, The Great Depression, and more, including scenes of slavery.

The mural was painted in 1943 by Frank Marchione. The Italian immigrant artist was 15 at the time and a student himself. His son, David Marchione, said removing or replacing the mural would be a mistake. “We’re not going to change it by forgetting about the horrors of it,” he said.

Marchione said he sees both sides. “I understand how a kid might feel, who doesn’t see the other side of the triumph. That’s why we want to show the great leaders. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re not going to get there by closing our eyes.” He said, “we’re not going to change it by forgetting about the horrors of it.”

He said his father, a lifetime artist, did not mean for it to be “confrontational between people and factions. It’s meant to grow something beautiful and positive and show the triumph of these great men over slavery.” He added, “prejudice and bias is a different thing. That’s here,” he said while putting his fist to his heart.

He said he wants to suggest an artistic award for students who depict Civil Rights Leaders and Moments as an alternative to removing or replacing the mural.

The district said the banner is a temporary remedy until a true conversation can be held once the daily struggles of learning in the pandemic have settled.

Read the statement from Canton City School District:

“In the Canton City School District, the social-emotional and physical safety of our students and staff is our first priority.”

“As the school year began, our leadership team determined that the highly charged climate around social injustice and the marginalization of certain groups within our school and city communities elevated the immediate need to cover up parts of the mural that have been deemed offensive and inappropriate to some”.

This is a temporary remedy until the time when a true conversation can be held about them. We have heard from Timken alumni who value the history of the paintings and the artist. We have also heard from students and parents who feel that the images of slaves being whipped are not appropriate in a school cafeteria. No one is diminishing the value of the artwork or trying to erase this country’s history, we are simply being respectful of the students who gather in the Commons on a daily basis and have no choice, but to see it.

Covering the murals and delaying further action has allowed us to have a laser focus on the safe return to face-to-face hybrid instruction and virtual instruction.

In the future, our district will facilitate a community discussion around the murals and their placement within the district. However, this conversation will happen once we have completely solved the issues related to supporting our students and staff in their daily efforts to learn, teach, and support each other during this global pandemic."

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