Valerie Babb on the George Beattie Murals at the Georgia Museum of Art

In 1956, George Beattie painted eight murals for the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Four of those murals addressed the history of agriculture in the state. In recent years, their content (which addresses slavery and the history of American Indians in Georgia) became recognized as offensive to many visitors to the building, and in 2011, Gary Black, the commissioner of agriculture, requested their removal. The Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA), which is the official state museum of art, agreed to take all eight murals to preserve them as an important part of the state’s art history. The four history murals are on display at GMOA Aug. 1, 2012, to Jan. 7, 2013. The museum also created four videos to educate the public, provide context for the images and discuss exactly why they are problematic. This one features Valerie Babb, a professor of English and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA). Babb talks about the images of women and slaves, the way these four murals and the other four (which focus on then-contemporary agriculture) fit together, some of the problems in Beattie’s representations and the importance of keeping even controversial art visible.