Controversy at Texas Southern University Over the Destruction of Two Murals

John Rudley, president of historically black Texas Southern University in Houston, ordered workers to paint over two murals that had been created over 40 years ago in the Hannah Hall administration building. The murals were painted in 1970 and 1971 by Harvey Johnson, who was a student at Texas Southern at the time and subsequently taught at the university for 34 years before his retirement in 2007. Johnson was devastated when he heard the news that his murals had been destroyed.

One mural was called “Dere’s a Han’ Writin on de Wall.” President Rudley reportedly objected to poor spelling. He told the Houston Chronicle, “When I bring dignitaries to campus, I can’t have them seeing that kind of thing. All art isn’t good art.”

After student and faculty protests, President Rudley announced that he was earmarking $50,000 to hire a conservator who will review the remaining murals and will develop a plan for their restoration, preservation, and conservation.