Post Office Mural raises questions of racial sensitivity

A man who grew up in Columbus, Mississippi is protesting the mural hanging in the local post office.

It was 1939. Beulah Bettersworth of New York was in Columbus, taking in the scenery, for inspiration for her next work of art.

The artist had been commissioned by the federal government’s Section of Fine Arts to paint a mural to be installed at the downtown Columbus post office. Like its better known cousin, the Works Progress Administration, the Section of Fine Arts was part of the Depression-era effort to get the country back to work during the financial crisis of the 1930s.

After reviewing four submissions for the Columbus mural, the agency chose a scene with black field hands picking cotton. In the foreground, a white man is guiding a mule-powered plow. In the background are a church, cotton gin and lumber mill.

Many people have passed in and out of the post office for years without even noticing the mural. But it has the full attention of Ira Lanier, a native of Columbus who now lives in Colorado. Lanier has launched a one-man campaign to remove the historic mural, denouncing it as racist.

Lanier has written to the postmaster general in Washington, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, The Dispatch, a consumer advocate in Washington, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Columbus City Councilman Gene Taylor in an effort to remove the work.

On a trip to Columbus last July, Lanier said his heart ached because of the painting’s “statement” of “bigotry and exploitation.”

“In my wildest dreams, I can not envision that the sentiment and approval of blacks were considered, despite the overwhelming presence of blacks in the majority of these murals distributed throughout the South,” the letter reads.

Other than a “generic” letter of acknowledgment from the U.S. Post Office in Washington, Lanier said he hasn’t gotten a response from his letters

The Commercial Dispatch

When a similar protest was launched in 2005 for the mural “Cotton Pickers” hanging in the Linden, Texas post office, USPS said:

The US post office’s public relations office tells News 12 that while they hear the protestors concerns, they don’t feel the mural is offensive. They tell News 12 that when they comissioned the artist, the mural was supposed to depict regular people from the area. And not everyone feels the mural has a derogatory affect.

12 thoughts on “Post Office Mural raises questions of racial sensitivity

  1. Poor white and black people are being taken advantage of by those with weath and power. You keep fighting among yourselves, dog it dog. While the big dog controls everthing even your thoughts.

    Stop beating up on each other. The only way we can understand another man’s pain is to walk in his shoes.

  2. cancer on society! wait till the chinese take over, they do not cotton to people who do not want to work. no political correctness in communist china. boo, hoo, hoo!

  3. Slavery has been around since the dawn of time and exists today in certain (whisper) muslim countries. It has encompassed ALL races. Blacks have no corner on the claims-of-slavery- market. Should I hold a grudge against my Italian wife because her Roman ancestors enslaved us Germans and called us the “B” word (barbarians)? The next time we go into an Italian restaurant and she gets a bigger portion of lasagna (again), should I make a scene?

    Obama WON. Most people, most white people, voted for him. Please, these claims of racism are becoming pitiful.

    On the historic night that Obama was elected, I believe it was Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who said: We have no more excuses. “You claim you don’t have a chance because you are black and grew up with no father? Well so did our President.”

    Please stop teaching your black children to hold grudges. Please don’t hand on the baggage that you have been carrying. Please ignore the people who sell you short and are teaching you that you can’t get ahead unless a WHITE democrat is holding your hand.

  4. This morning i had breakfast in a restaurant where a black man was clearing tables while the white owner sat sipping coffee and chatting with customers. Should I have been offended by this? There are so many ways to look at it. Was the black man a slave, or was the white man good for giving him a job. Should we forcibly take the restaurant from the white man and give it to the black man? The black man DOES have ancestors who were taken advantage of by whites, But the white man may have ancestors who fought and died freeing blacks during the civil war. Was the black man being exploited? He seemed very pleasant. Please, I need a harvard educated liberal to tell me how I should feel about what I witnessed.

  5. Did it occur to any of you that since the mural was done in the thirties, the whole bunch of the people in it could very well have been simply employees of the owner of the farm? There was no longer slavery at that time, and being from Mississippi, I know for a fact that cotton still had to be picked on the smaller operations. Did some picking of it myself in the early fifties, right beside both black and white people, ages five to fifty. You all, including the dolt who originally started the complaint, need to get off your racist butts (both black and white) and smell the coffee! History is history! Unchanging, uncaring, educating and gone! Let it rest! The current generation is not in any way responsible for things that happened two centuries ago! Get on with your lives and live in the present!

  6. Well said POSTALUSMC. It is nothing more than a mural of the times, a style of painting. I have never seen it and I can only assume that it is a fine piece of work.

    @ Eve, hahaha funny sic story. Did you doing anything about it RIGHT after it happened? You should be ashamed of your self for telling lies to draw attention to yourself, and you are right I do not believe you either.

  7. I really don’t think this mural is racist, it is an accurate depiction of an unfortunate history of our country. It is still a true depiction. Would you rather that we ignore and forget about what happened in our country’s past? Get over it, it happened, remember our history so we will not make that mistake ever again!

  8. Your a JACKA$$!! Doing what you RACIST PIGS, do best talk shit where you can “HIDE/or make sure nobody HEARS” your punk A$$, (COWARD!) afraid you just might get your BUTT KICKED?????

  9. i would be upset to of a mural from the 1930’s depicting blacks picking cotton in a field and a white man behind a hrse plowing a field. The blacks should have been plowing the field after they picked the cotton……………..

  10. wow. racilal hostility, intolerance and pure HATRED is still alive and well in the U.S. Government’s Postal Service. I was called, “NIGGER” several times by a white male supervisor during the course of a private meeting I was called into. He continually YELLED, “NOW, I’M GOING TO TELL YOU THIS ONE MORE TIME, SHADDAP N SIDDOWN!!!!” when I was just sitting there very quietly, not saying a word. It ishard for me to this day to imagine him talking and yelling at a black man this way. In a hostile work enviroment, anything goes. He made it a point to tell me that if I ever repeated what he said, NO ONE would believe me because, “you people” are the lowest scum of the earth, have NO, NO CREDIBILITY nonewhatsoever in this world.” And then he lowered his voice, as if speaking to a close friend, and said, “And Eve, I am not the only one. You people will never get anywhere, and if you do, IT WILL BE CORRECTED. Believe me, Eve, It will be corrected.” I took this as a direct threat on the President’s life. And it is TRUE. NO ONE BELIEVES ME.

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