A mural that depicts a lynching has been removed from the walls of an elementary school gymnasium in Tennessee, but not without a fight.
David Clark, a janitor who works at nearby schools, said nobody took his concerns over the mural seriously. That is until he went public.
“These murals are in South Cumberland Elementary in Crossville,” Clark posted on Facebook. “They are both in one public school elementary gym where all the children go to play every day. I have been in contact with the school board and Janet Graham Superintendent since mid-December about having them painted over. No action has been planned or taken as of today so I am asking people to call and let them know in a respectful manner, how you feel about these racist symbols being on full public display where children can see them. Germany does not display Nazi symbols. This is not heritage, it is racism.”
His post went viral. Within just 24 hours, the post was shared hundreds of times, according to CNN. Even better for Clark and others who agreed with him, was the fact that the mural was modified the very same day.
Clark originally complained about the mural back in December. He didn’t make just one complaint. He called and emailed the school board and superintendent for months, he claimed.
"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," principal Darrell Threet told CNN in a statement.
The mural used to depict a white man hanging from jersey straps tied to a tree branch while another man stood by holding a confederate flag. The two males were supposed to represent sports rivalry between the school and another school’s team. Now, the jersey straps are gone and an explosion cloud has been painted under the previously lynched cartoon character. The Confederate flag has been changed to a school flag.
"The response seems to be very much in favor of taking it down," Clark told Oxygen. "It had been there for several years though I don’t know if the flags and lynching were always a part of it. I just know it had to come down. I hear the happy sounds of children playing and laughing every day. Not black, white, mixed or Hispanic children. Just children."
Not everyone was happy about the mural being changed.
A petition was created by community members, according to the Crossville Chronicle.
“As a community we should have been involved in the decision making of what could be done over the mural. Whether it stay, be updated or just covered up. We shouldn’t allow someone outside our town dicate [sic] or make us look small minded because they don’t want to see our history. I for one vote to have this agenda brought up in a school board meeting and took [sic] seriously to make this decision right by how we feel in the community,” the petition said.
The reactions and comments online show just how divided our country has become. Confederate symbols have become even more of a hot-button issue after the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.