Should Mural of Men Picking Cotton on Will Rogers Memorial Center Be Removed?

People will have an opportunity to weigh in on a controversial set of murals at Will Rogers auditorium in Fort Worth.

A lot of people didn't even realize it was there, going largely unnoticed for decades.

The mural, made of nine-inch ceramic tiles, went up the same year as the Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium, in 1936. It was created to celebrate the first 100 years of Texas by tracing the settlement and industrial development of the west.

The mural clearly shows two black men picking cotton.

For well over a year now, the city of Fort Worth has been having community conversations about racial equity in the city. In response to a resident's concerns about this depiction of blacks in the mural, the Fort Worth Art Commission wants to hear comments from residents.

Some activists and residents said the city should replace the picture with a more positive image. Others said to leave it there with the proper context.

"I don't believe in tearing down art. I don't believe in burning books. I do believe in explaining them, putting them in context. And I think that's what the NAACP has said, even though there are those who would say tear it down, or take it off of the building," said Bob Ray Sanders, former co-chair of the Fort Worth Race & Culture Task Force. "That building has been there since 1936. That artwork has been there since 1936. You don't tear it down. I know what that building represents. Architecturally, it is a jewel in many people's eyes, the mural is impressive in many people's eyes, they object to black people being shown as slaves or picking cotton, but the truth is that mural represents a 100-year period, the first 100 years of Texas, from 1836 to 1936, and believe it or not, black people picked cotton."

The meeting is Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for neighborhoods on Missouri Avenue in Fort Worth. The meeting will be held in room 201.

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