A controversial mural depicting what some are calling a lynching has been modified at an elementary school in Tennessee.
South Cumberland Elementary School and Cumberland County personnel altered the mural Monday after the painting was called racist in a social media post on Friday.
The original mural depicted a man wearing what appears to be a blue basketball uniform strung from a tree by the straps of his jersey, while another man dressed in a red uniform stands nearby holding the Confederate battle flag. A larger Confederate flag was painted on another wall.
The mural was supposed to illustrate a school rivalry, where the men in blue and red represent North Cumberland Elementary and South Cumberland Elementary, respectively.
But concerned citizens took issue with the Confederate flag and lynching imagery being on the walls of an elementary school.
David Clark, a member of the group Shelbyville Loves, an organization that formed as a response to white supremacy in Shelbyville, Tenn., says when a friend sent him pictures of the elementary school mural he knew he had to do something.
Clark says he reached out to members of the school board in early December and “didn’t hear anything from them.” Around Christmas break, he decided to reach out to the superintendent directly.
“I got a response from her in five minutes,” he says.
Clark says the superintendent told him that they were looking into solutions for the mural and that it would be dealt with in February, once the original artist was available to make changes to it.
“But February came and went,” he says, “and I decided to shine a light on it.”
Clark posted about the Confederate mural on Facebook, and the response was instantaneous, he says. Within 24 hours, the post had garnered 500 likes and about 200 shares. Soon after, the Confederate flags in the mural at South Cumberland Elementary were painted over, as were the straps suspending the man from the tree. The larger Confederate flag was replaced with a mural saying “Dread the Red,” and the smaller was replaced with a simple “SCE” flag.
“Concerns regarding graphics in our gymnasium have been dealt with by removing the rebel flags painted on the wall, and by modifying the mural on the wall as well,” said a statement from school principal Darrell Threet.
Director of Schools Janet Graham told the Crossville Chronicle that she had received emails applauding the modifications. Graham could not be reached immediately for response.
But some are not as happy with the changes, calling them unnecessary.
“It was meant to represent South Elementary beating North Elementary and ‘hanging them out to dry.’ I know because I watched it get painted on the wall,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.
But Clark says that the changes were necessary to keep the racist imagery “out of public places where kids can see it and show it as being accepted.”
“I really hate that people are upset, but I couldn’t bear to see that up any longer than necessary,” Clark says of the mural, which he calls racist. “There are kids in all these elementary schools that don’t need to see that. The people that innocently allow it to go on, we can’t have that.”