Editorials

Save ‘historic’ mosaic if you want, but not with public dollars

Activist recalls mural fight

Herman Shaw, 84, explains why black Edwardsville residents were offended by the depiction of a freed slave in a 1967 mural on the old Edwardsville City Hall and how they fought to change it in the 1980s.
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Herman Shaw, 84, explains why black Edwardsville residents were offended by the depiction of a freed slave in a 1967 mural on the old Edwardsville City Hall and how they fought to change it in the 1980s.

Some of the progressive souls of Edwardsville who worried their children would burn out their eyes by looking at the eclipse are now trying to save a tile mural showing the “community’s” history.

And let’s not forget the thing they might save was so racially offensive to some residents 30 years ago that they reworked it over the mayor’s and designer’s objections.

The 7-by-36 foot tile mural is 51 years old and on the old Edwardsville Municipal Building. The building was sold to a lawyer for $1.04 million, and will be razed soon to make way for a new retail and office building.

Most of the mural is 51 years old. Some of it was reworked in 1987 because folks finally made an issue out of the freed slave depiction with a floppy hat, big, white grin and shackles dangling from his arms. He now has a hoe without chains or hat.

Certainly racially insensitive, but then it was a product of the 1960s.

No one has forced a revision of the native American depiction of a Kickapoo that looks more like the generic plains Indian once used for every indigenous person from Florida to Alaska. That depiction remains on the “fixed” mural, not to mention the Kickapoos were only briefly in the area.

Saving the mural would cost $100,000 as 40,000 tiles are removed and reassembled. That’s a lot of money for a piece of history that reflects a warped view of history, and an unacceptable amount to be supported by public dollars.

It would have been nice had someone thought about the mural while negotiating the sale of the building, maybe holding out for $1.14 million?

Still, Edwardsville’s leaders should remember that the mural was created with donations. If the community thinks this is a piece of Euro-centric, rewritten, needs-another-revision history worth saving, private donations maybe coupled with someone’s Scout project could again be the path.

That would be fine. Using tax dollars? Not so much.

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