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Rhinebeck gets report about post office mural

Aug 11, 2021 12:34 pm

William J. Kemble writes in the Daily Freeman that Rhinebeck's Town Board has a new report on the murals inside the Rhinebeck Post Office by painter Olin Dows with design input from then-President Franklin Roosevelt. The mural depicts slaves and postal officials have discussed covering them. Myra Young Armstead, a professor of historical studies for Bard College, reported for the town that the images “correctly – yet disturbingly –” show an elite vision of people of color in subservient roles in a way that is narrow and incomplete. She suggests adding interpretive signs instead of removing the 12-panel painting that goes around the post office lobby. “The objection is that in all of these scenes, African Americans are shown in servile and enslaved roles,” Armstead wrote. “Indeed, the Black people in the murals are farm hands, coachmen, haulers, loggers, and brickmakers. They are generally in crouched, kneeling, seated, or bending positions in stark contrast to the upright, white male figures – enslavers, supervisors, taskmasters – who engage in conversation with each other or simply observe while the Black figures perform various tasks.” Kemble reports that U.S. Post Office officials "last year had expected to cover up the murals in response to public concerns." But they are currently still visible, and on Aug. 11 the Rhinebeck postmaster said he has not been updated on the issue. Read more about this story in the Daily Freeman.

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