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Ann Rice O'Hanlon & The Memorial Hall Mural: Complaints About The Mural

Complaints about the Ann Rice O'Hanlon Mural

The depiction of the African Americans is the most repeated complaint about the Ann Rice O'Hanlon Mural at the University of Kentucky in Memorial Hall. The complaints date back to at least the 1970s. It has only been with the most recent complaints in 2015 that there has been a plethora of conversations and documentation taking place on campus, and in the media and the social media. Only a few of those sources referring to the actions and reactions are listed in this research guide.  Additional sources may be found by searching within the databases provided by the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Early Complaints

Fowler, H. W. (1988). "Ann O'Hanlon's Kentucky Mural." The Kentucky Review, vol. 8 (no.1), pp. 57-68.

     The following quote comes from Fowler's article, notes section, number 17, p. 68:

     "Since the mid-1970s the University Administration has received several complaints alleging racist overtones in the mural, criticisms which are based on O'Hanlon's depiction of blacks in "demeaning, stereotyped" attitudes and roles. These charges seem ironic in view of the fact that the artist's intention throughout the mural was to document the importance of blacks to this nation's development and to point out the unequal social status suffered by black people throughout our national history. For example, the young man hiding in the tree outside the chautauqua tent must hear the debate from this awkward vantage point; the young black children watching the boys fishing are not allowed to fish there themselves; and the young girl buying a ticket to the chautauqua is socially ostracized, since she is an individual of mixed parentage. Like many other New Deal artists, O'Hanlon was extremely aware of the social injustices endured by black people. Some of these artists documented racial injustice in an impassioned, unequivocal way -- others, like O'Hanlon chose a quieter, more subtle method of making their commentaries."

Recent Complaints - Forums & Blogs

Mintcheva, S. (2015 December 3). Victory: A Year On, University of Kentucky Uncovers Controversial Mural Depicting Slaves. National Coalition Against Censorship. Updated 04/21/2017. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Stevens, A. D. (2015 December 11). University of Kentucky covers up a racially charged Depression-era mural amid community debateHyperallergic. Retrieved 02/04/2016.

Rushton, M. (2015 December 16). About that University of Kentucky MuralFor What It's Worth; an arts journal blog. Retrieved 02/01/2016.

The Mural is Covered

Credit  Kopana Terry / University of Kentucky

Covered mural information panel, January 2016


Photos by Ruth Bryan, 2/12/2016.

Recent Complaints - Newspapers

Ismail, R. H. (2006 April 21). Removal of UK mural sought - student senators say artwork is offensive. Lexington Herald-Leader, p.B1.

Blackford, L. (2015 November 23). UK to cover controversial mural at Memorial HallLexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 02/04/2016.

Higdon, J & Anderson, N. (2015 December 1). U. of Kentucky shrouds a 1934 mural that depicts African American slavesThe Washington Post. Retrieved 02/04/2016.

Blackford, Linda (2017 March 25). Controversial UK mural uncovered, this time with context. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 12/15/2022.

Childress, R. (2018 August 16). Once anonymous, now revered: Memorial Hall art adds context to debate of race in art. Kentucky Kernel. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Ladd, S. (2019 April 3). UK to cover Memorial Hall mural after student sit-inKentucky Kernel. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Ahmad, M. (2019 April 5). The O’Hanlon mural is painful, confusing and complicated. Kentucky Kernel. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Olivier, K (2019 April 8). Artist who created piece in response to Memorial Hall mural writes letter to UK community. Kentucky Kernel. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Berry, W. (2019 April 9). Wendell Berry: at UK, truth, history, law -- and what 'cannot be forgiven'. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Read more here:

Douglas, T (2019 April 10). Op-ed: BSU president responds to artist's call to not remove mural. Kentucky Kernel. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Jacobs, Julia (2020 July 6). Students' Calls to Remove a Mural Were Answered. Now Comes a Lawsuit. The New York Times. Retrieved 12/15/2022.

Kast, Monica (2022 November 22). UK updates campus diversity efforts--including removal of controversial mural--after attack. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 12/15/2022.

Recent Complaints - Other Media

Capilouto, E. (2015 November 23). Memorial Hall Mural: a chance to heal wounds, gain broader perspectiveUKNow. Retrieved 02/04/2016. 

University of Kentucky to cover controversial campus mural. (2015 November 24). CBSNEWS. Retrieved 02/01/2016.

Czar, K. (2016 February 4). UK forms committee to decide future of controversial mural. WUKY. Retrieved 01/12/2016.

Capilouto, E. (2016 September 1). Memorial Hall Mural. UKNow. Retrieved 05/20/2019.

Capilouto, E. (2019 April 3). Eight Commitments to Turn Shared Goals Into Common Ground. UKNow. Retrieved 05/20/2019.