Alabama NAACP branch calls to remove murals from courthouse

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alabama NAACP branch calls to remove murals from courthouse.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Jefferson County Commission members said Thursday that they’ll work together to address concerns surrounding two murals in the county courthouse building that members of a local NAACP branch have said are offensive and should be removed. The mural, made to represent the “Old South,” was installed at the entrance of the building in 1934; a time when Black people were under the scourge of Jim Crow laws in the nation. The murals in question are roughly two stories tall and they tower over anyone walking into the Jefferson County Courthouse from the Linn Park entrance near 20th Street. Advocates say the symbol and the mural are “racist and offensive.” Commissioner Sandra Little Brown took a strong stance against keeping the mural as is. “This is a place where you come in for justice for all. Mountain Brook native Anne Garland Mahler now lives in Arizona, but she said that she felt strongly enough about the murals to start a nationwide petition to have them removed. “These murals which were painted in the 1930s romanticize of racial hierarchy in which black people are presented as working at the feet of white people,” said Anne Garland Mahler Asst.

She opposes removing the pieces and thinks renewed focus on Southern symbolism after the shooting of nine black people at a South Carolina church may be fueling the renewed push to take the murals down. “It’s just not a good thing to do to those murals and it’s just not a good precedent,” she said. Likewise, Commission president David Carrington is using the fight over the mural to push for the removal of the swastikas etched into the courthouse’s stone. “I think we need to be very cautious about the images we project to others,” he told WIAT. It’s about a courthouse where people expect to receive equality and fair treatment and the first thing you see when you walk through the door are two paintings they communicate the exact opposite,” responded Mahler. Assistant Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation (BJF) Daniel Odrezin agrees. “We’re certainly appreciative of the sensitivity of members of the commission.

The city’s parks and recreation board also called to remove a monument to Confederate soldiers from the park as Confederate battle flags were removed from public property throughout the South after the Charleston church shooting. County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said that whatever the commission decides, he can’t authorize spending taxpayer dollars to remove the murals. Given the antisemitism 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.

Stephens said the county is still recovering from bankruptcy proceedings and said that the commission would like to discuss how concerned community members could help deal with the murals. I don’t think the majority of the people in Jefferson County really would want that.” Join us in our effort to change our world with Empowering Narratives. Bowman suggested donating them to a Confederate museum. “I cannot expend taxpayer dollars removing those,” said Commissioner Jimmie Stephens, noting that the county recently came out of a more than $4 billion bankruptcy and commissioners have other pressing priorities. The commission did not make a final decision Thursday, but Brown said she supports their mission and promised she would have a plan of action in two weeks. While many argued that the presence of the flag dredged up a painful history of Black enslavement and oppression in this country — even more so following the Emanuel AME church massacre in July — others were concerned that burying the symbols would erase history.

Carrington mentioned multiple images in the courthouse give a negative impression of Jefferson County, including symbols that resemble swastikas that are carved into the building’s foundation and portraits of former commissioners who have been convicted of corruption being displayed in the hallway outside commission chambers.

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