"A Monument to Blackness"

The Role of Murals in the Black Freedom Movement


  • Hannah Jeffery




Murals have been present at pivotal moments during the Black freedom struggle, yet they remain on the margins of scholarship. Birthed during the Harlem Renaissance, cresting in the streets during Black Power, and resurrected today during #BlackLivesMatter, murals are radical, visual counterparts to the spoken politics of a movement. This article highlights the instrumental role murals played in fostering Black unity and empowerment in grassroots mobilizations since the 1920s. It introduces their complex, malleable roles as touchstones of communication, sites of ritual, visual tombstones, and talismans of a new Black consciousness, demonstrating how they became what a 1968 newspaper called “a monument to blackness.”