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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


An artist updated a "rebel"-themed mural in a Crossville elementary school gym over the weekend to remove paintings critics said glorified violence and a racist time in Southern history.

The mural on the gymnasium wall of South Cumberland Elementary School, whose mascot is a "Rebel," originally featured Confederate battle flags and a drawing of a Caucasian-toned "Patriot" mascot from rival North Cumberland Elementary hanging from a tree branch by his jersey straps.

Tullahoma resident David Clark complained to the school system in December that the painting appeared to imply a lynching, and that the Confederate battle flags on the gym wall no longer were appropriate.

Local artist Tim Burgess changed the mural over the weekend, according to Jane Franklin, assistant to Director of Schools Janet Graham and the school board.

The tree branch was painted over, and the Patriot now has a dust cloud, what comic artists call a "briffit," underneath him.

The flag carried by the Rebel now is solid red except for white letters reading "SCE," and larger Confederate battle flags on another wall of the gym also have been replaced with the words "Dread the Red."

Graham told the Crossville Chronicle newspaper that Burgess painted the original mural, adapted from a student's drawing in the early 2000s. (The school opened in 1980, adopting the Rebel mascot then.) Franklin said there'd been no complaints prior to Clark's, but that the school system has since received some messages of support for the change.

Opinions on Clark's post on social media about the mural, and subsequent news stories, was divided, however.

And the Chronicle reported a petition against the change circulating had 165 signatures as of Monday morning.

"As a community we should have been involved in the decision making of what could be done over the mural," the petition read. "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."

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March 6, 2018


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