Feb 22, 2018

Eight Murals Remembering African American Heroes

by: Laura Kochman

On Octavius Catto’s 179th birthday, we’re over at Universal Institute Charter School celebrating with the unveiling of a new mural design. Our strength is public art, not birthday cakes, so we asked artists Willis Humphrey and Keir Johnston to design a mural that would honor this important early civil rights activist, who has long gone unsung in the public eye.

Since his assassination, Catto has been remembered and celebrated within Philadelphia’s African American communities, and we wanted to bring his memory to a wide audience—making sure that our city’s youth learn about the man who helped desegregate streetcars and fought for voting rights. Catto is one among many figures of Black history that we’ve depicted over the years—local and national, long-gone, recently passed, or still with us today—so we thought we’d invite a few more people to this birthday celebration.

Jackie Robinson, Baseball Player 

Jackie Robinson by David McShane. James Burns' North Philadelphia Beacon Project is visible in the background. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Miss Jones, West Philadelphia Community Pillar 

Holding Grandmother's Quilt (West Wall) by Don Gensler. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

Tuskegee Airmen and Female Parachute Riggers, WWII Fighter Pilots and Mechanics 

Tuskegee Airmen: They Met the Challenge by Marcus Akinlana. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

The Roots, Homegrown Music Heroes 

Legendary by Amber Art & Design featuring Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Other Civil Rights Leaders 

Staircases and Mountaintops: Ascending Beyond the Dream section by Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Shawn L. “Air Smooth” White, PhD, Community Leader and AIDS Activist 

ASpire: No Limits by Ernel Martinez. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Bishop Richard Allen, African Methodist Episcopal Church Founder and Civil Rights Activist 

The Legacy of Bishop Richard Allen and the A.M.E. Church by Willis Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

John Coltrane, Legendary Jazz Musician 

Why We Love Coltrane by Ernel Martinez. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Last updated: Apr 19, 2024

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Sudipta Dasgupta says

I have never seen anything more beautiful than these pieces or better say masterpieces. The color combinations, the compositions, textures, layers, finishing and more over, the Detailing of these murals are simply Outstanding. It's beyond my imagination the way artists have handled such a large scale of the artworks. My salute the the artists, the organiser, the supporters and everyone who has a part in it. God bless!!
S. Dasgupta