Murals are one of a city’s most important cultural features and we believe in their ability to preserve, remind, and honor important figures and stories that are often forgotten with time. Charlotte has had many important Black figures who have grown up in neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Washington Heights, and Biddleville and who have then transcended to national and historical fame and remembrance. We wanted to highlight 5 of our favorite murals that are sprinkled throughout some of the city’s most historically significant areas and created by Black artists who are paying tribute to the ones who came before them. Have you seen them all in person yet?
1. “We Too, Shall Rise” by Tommie Robinson
Tommie Robinson has been painting and sharing his works for 50 years and often his murals focus on historically significant people and moments. One of Robinson’s murals in Charlotte is called “We Too, Shall Rise,” and lives at the Second Ward High School Gymnasium. The school was Charlotte’s first all-black public high school, was closed down during the “urban renewal” in the 60s, and now serves as a community recreational center. The painting is meant to depict the story of Second Ward and it was made alongside another mural celebrating the school’s significance, “Go, Tigers!”
Where: Second Ward High School Gymnasium
2. “West End Perpetual Legacy” by Abel Jackson and Big Trouble Studios
West End Perpetual Legacy by Abel Jackson in collaboration with Big Trouble Studios highlights historic landmarks, past and present, in Charlotte’s longest standing Black neighborhoods, Biddleville. The historic neighborhood is home to the Henry J. Biddle Memorial Institute, which was a historically Black college formed after the Civil War.
Where: 1545 W. Trade St.
3. “NC 8 – Musical Great” by T’Afo Feimster and Abel Jackson
This mural was made in partnership by T’Afo Feimster and Abel Jackson to honor 8 Black musicians who come from North Carolina and who have made an impact not just in N.C. but worldwide: Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Roberta Flack, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Brown, George Clinton, Maceo Parker and Max Roach. They all worked in different genres and styles from Simone’s singing to Coltrane’s saxophone skills to Monk’s piano playing and Roach, an influential drummer.
Where: 1600 W. Trade St.
4. “Booker T” by Georgie Nakima
Georgie Nakima’s work is bold, brazen, and full of Charlotte’s history. For this piece, Nakima conceptualized a strikingly colorful ode to the district, Washington Heights, and to one of its residents whose history rings throughout Charlotte. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery and became an advocate for self-sufficiency through education and trade, and eventually made his way to Charlotte, where the neighborhood was named after him. The mural serves as an honor, a reminder, and an inspiration to the neighborhood. Nakima wrote on her Instagram, “I have no room to hold fear within me especially when looking back into my elders who’ve created so much with very little resources beyond their imagination and motivation for a better future…”
Where: Booker Street and Beatties Ford Road
5. “Historic Brooklyn” by Abel Jackson
Historic Brooklyn was painted by prolific Charlotte muralist, Abel Jackson, and depicts the younger generation looking up to important Black figures in the Charlotte neighborhood, Brooklyn. The three men depicted are Thaddeus Tate, Dr. J.T. Williams and W.C. Smith. Tate was one of Charlottes most important and first businessmen, Williams was one of the three only Black doctors officially licensed in North Carolina, and Smith was the founder, publisher, and editor of Charlotte’s first Black secular newspaper, the Charlotte Messenger.
Where: 219 S. Brevard St.
[featured image by jazzeyeview via instagram]