Black History Month: Murals & Their Significance

  • by Catherine Tortorici
  • February 15, 2022

Murals and street art have decorated the walls of big cities around the United States for decades now, and Jacksonville is no exception. Thanks to the Black Mural Map and other organizations working to increase the visibility of Black art, we have the pleasure of highlighting some of our favorite pieces and providing historical context on their significance. 

First, we would like to draw your attention to the A.Philip Randolph Mural located on 123 E. Forsyth Street (Christopher Clark). Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a labor leader and civil rights activist, who founded the nation’s first Black labor union- The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). In 1891, Randolph’s family moved to Jacksonville, and he attended the Cookman Institute (now known as Bethune-Cookman University). Shortly after finishing his studies, Randolph moved to Harlem (New York) and began working as a community organizer. During his time as an organizer, his efforts yielded the passing of two executive orders (Roosevelt and Truman), and he also played an important role in leading the March on Washington.

A.Philip Randolph Mural 

The second mural that we would like to highlight is located on 915 A. Philip Randolph Ave and was completed by Nicole Holderbaum + UNF students who studied Ax Handle Saturday. Ax Handle Saturday (1960) was a racially motivated attack that took place in Hemming Park (now known as James Weldon Johnson Park) after two weeks of peaceful sit-ins by The Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As you can see, this mural includes the statement: “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!” , which is the name of the book that Rodney L. Hurst (previous president of the Youth Council) wrote about his experiences. In this book, Hurst contextualizes the state of race issues at the time and provides insights from the perspective of Black community organizers in our city. 

 Ax Handle Saturday Mural 

 The last mural that we would like to highlight is located on the Eastside of Jacksonville at the corner of A. Philip Randolph Blvd and Pippin Street. This piece, completed by artists from the Jacksonville Cultural Development Corporation, is called “Locals and Legends.”. The locals portrayed in the mural are Clarence Williams and Pearlie Graham, while the legends consist of: A. Philip Randolph, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, and Bob Hayes. Clarence Williams was a local businessman who once owned the building where the mural can be found. Pearlie Graham (the only living person pictured) remains involved in the community and was the long-time owner of the nearby Spot Rite Cleaners. Zora Neale Hurston was an American writer and anthropologist known for her portrayal of racial struggles in the American South. And, the other legends are alluded to above or in our previous article about Stanton College Preparatory School 

Locals and Legends Mural

 For a full list of murals honoring Black leaders and people in Jacksonville, please visit Mural Map Jax. They have the most exhaustive list of Black murals that we could find, and they update it periodically.

Article by Wilshem Pennick



Join over 70,000 North Floridian's that receive our weekly newsletter.

Trust us, It's good!

Related Articles