Report: Rhinebeck Post Office Ordered To Cover Offensive Mural
The USPS has reportedly ordered a Hudson Valley post office to cover up a mural that has been on display since the 1940s.
According to Postlandia, a mural at the Rhinebeck post office is one of 16 across the country that the USPS is ordering to be covered up. One of the five "FDR Post Offices," the Rhinebeck building, along with post offices in Poughkeepsie, Beacon and other local towns, was personally designed by Roosevelt during his presidency. The buildings were made by local workers during the New Deal and contain elaborate artwork that was commissioned by the president.
The mural in question at the Rhinebeck post office depicts "scenes of local history" and was created by Olin Dows in 1940. Controversy over the paintings is not new. Many post office customers have commented on the depiction of slavery in some of the scenes depicted on the wall. A collection of images of the mural can be seen in the New York Heritage Digital Collection.
On first look, the mural seems to be an innocent portrayal of life in the Hudson Valley during the 1700s. But on closer inspection, slaves can be seen working under the watchful eyes of the white owners. In many scenes Black, shirtless men are shown working in fields and attending to slave owners. New York Heritage explains that a panel depicting people shucking corn in 1780 includes an emaciated slave gathering crops.
Slavery officially persisted in New York State until 1799. After 1799, any child born in New York State to a slave woman would be deemed free according to the 1799 Gradual Emancipation Bill, but would be required to serve his/her mother's master as an indentured servant until the age of 21, pending general emancipation in 1827. Children born to slave mothers on or before July 3rd, 1827 could legally be held as indentured servants until 1848.
A panel depicting a steamboat on the Hudson River shows three Black slaves hauling heavy bags onto a boat while large, white men stand watch. Another scene shows another shirtless slave stoking a fire for well-dressed settlers.
Recently the Village of Rhinebeck made headlines over different racist artwork that was on display at Foster's Coach House. The historic restaurant was criticized for the way it handled complaints from a Black podcaster who questioned wy the offensive artwork was still hanging on the business' wall.