Mural depicting slavery now up for debate at New Jersey middle school

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Thursday, January 14, 2021
Mural depicting slavery now up for debate at NJ middle school
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Toni Yates has more on the mural at a New Jersey middle school that is now being questioned.

WOODBRIDGE, New Jersey (WABC) -- There is a debate underway over a mural at a middle school in New Jersey that depicts President Lincoln freeing a slave.

Some are raising the question if it's time to either revise it or get rid of it.

Woodbridge Middle School has an art deco theater that was built in the '30s. It has been upgraded through the decades - but now some think another upgrade needs to be made.

One of two nearly floor-to-ceiling murals in the theater depicts a tribute to America in her struggle to become a nation.

They were painted in 1934. The mural shows a standing native American, a proud white statesman and woman - armed and stoic - and the one Black person in the mural is a man kneeling before President Abraham Lincoln.

He is a newly freed slave with a chain link broken on the shackles on his wrist.

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"I think it's incomplete and I think that's what the offensive part of it is," Superintendent Robert Zega said.

The district hired Kendell Ali in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd to guide the district toward more perfect diversity insight and guidance.

"When I saw it myself, it definitely created some feelings in myself, it's just really important that we put images in front of our students that we want them to see in themselves," Ali said.

The superintendent says ideas include how to add balance.

"Maybe having either additional murals or additional information in the school," Zega said.

"If you look at the images under the banner, it talks about our achievements, it talks about our accomplishments, and there have been so many more accomplishments and achievements by African Americans to our country," Ali said.

Whatever solution the school district decides on, they want to put it in effect as soon as possible.

Black History Month is February and they are aiming for kids to come back inside buildings in March.

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