Today’s post features one of my favorite murals in downtown Raleigh that holds a unique connection to Raleigh’s history.
In 2017 artist Dare Coulter was commissioned by the ACLU and the Raleigh Murals Project to create “Dare to Dissent”, a tribute to the legacy of protest and activism throughout history. Coulter’s murals are important hallmarks of a growing artistic career that spans multiple mediums that include sculpture and painting. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a BA in Art in 2015 and since then she has created a series of colorful paintings and murals that honor Black traditions and culture.
In the mural on Salisbury St. in downtown Raleigh, Coulter’s colorful renderings of bravery in the face of violence and discrimination span multiple generations and social issues. Her images depict seminal historic moments that include the iconic raised fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, the United Farmworkers Strike, Stonewall, and present-day protests including Standing Rock, the Women’s March and protests against police brutality against African Americans.
In my first Artist a Day post about the February 1, 1960 lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, NC, I noted that the event inspired similar protests-many of those protests took place 60 years ago today on February 10, 1960 in Raleigh.
On this day, 150 students gathered to stage peaceful demonstrations at 7 lunch counters in stores throughout Raleigh. At 10:30 am, the first sit-in took place at Woolworth’s on Fayetteville St., while another was held at the nearby Hudson-Belk.
The lunch counter demonstrations occurring throughout the state became the catalyst for the sit-in movement and continuing Civil Rights activism that spread in the south. In April of 1960 many of the protesters convened again at Shaw University to organize around peaceful protest as a strategic form of dissent, and as a result of that conference, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed at the historically Black college.
One of those in attendance during that April meeting was Julian Bond, who was a student at Morehouse University. Inspired by a speech given by Shaw alumni Ella Baker, who was an instrumental organizing figure within the NAACP, Bond would later leave Morehouse to work full time for the SNCC as its communications coordinator.
As if that weren’t fascinating enough, here is where this story got very interesting to me. Historically, Fayetteville Street was Raleigh’s main retail district featuring stores that included Hudson-Belk, Kimbrell’s, Briggs Hardware and Boylan-Pearce. Many of the buildings have been restored to their original turn of the century design, and while details of the building’s architectural characteristics have been preserved, other historic details are obscure footnotes.
I’ve passed Coulter’s mural numerous times, captivated by the beauty of the work and it’s message, and I’ve been equally enthralled with the classical Beaux Arts revival design details that have been meticulously restored among the buildings in the area.
Coulter’s mural is located on the Salisbury Street side of the Boylan-Pearce building which resides on the same block as the old Woolworth’s facing Fayetteville Street. As mentioned earlier, Woolworth’s was the site of Raleigh’s first lunch counter sit-in that took place 60 years ago today. The mural’s presence in this renewed, thriving section of downtown Raleigh is a potent symbol of protest and progress. Understanding this significant footnote adds another historical layer to the piece that makes me appreciate its message even more.
Click here for images of the historic sit-ins in Raleigh.