SERVICE: A Mural at the School of Government
THE STORY OF SERVICE
A creative interpretation of the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-in of 1960, SERVICE is the first in a series of murals that will commemorate the contributions of African Americans and Native Americans to the state. These new works are intended to fill a gap in the depiction of diversity in a series of murals created in the 1950s by artist Francis Vandeveer Kughler for the Knapp-Sanders Building (then the Joseph Palmer Knapp Building).
SERVICE depicts a gathering of African-American leaders at the lunch counter of a store not unlike F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro. The artist, Colin Quashie, has featured the Greensboro Four—Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, Jibreel Khazan (formerly known as Ezell Blair, Jr.), and Franklin McCain—as chefs because, as Quashie explains, "they literally took possession of the lunch counter with their refusal to leave until served. By seeking service they were, by extension, serving a cause greater than themselves."
SERVICE is on display on the first floor of the Knapp-Sanders Building across from the School of Government dining room. Quashie explains why he picked this location for the mural: “When I saw the bare wall facing the School of Government’s dining facility, I immediately knew that the visual length of a lunch counter would figure nicely there. It was the perfect location for a collaboration. Public officials and others who take courses at the School would line up in that hallway and would have to walk the length of the painting before entering the dining hall."
The mural was generously sponsored by the Local Government Federal Credit Union and dedicated on July 26, 2010. This date coincided with the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro. View a partial archive of a blog the artist kept during the creation of the mural.
For information about publications related to some of the individuals and events featured in the mural, visit the UNC Press blog.
VIEW THE MURAL
SERVICE is on display and accessible to the public at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Knapp-Sanders Building is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To learn more about the SERVICE mural or the School of Government, or to arrange a visit to the mural during weekend or off-hours, contact Sonja Matanovic (919.966.4178 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Gini Hamilton (919.962.5795 or email@example.com).
The mural, a single 5' x 50' painting, visually consists of eight panels, each representing an event, place, or particular accomplishment in the history of North Carolina. A “menu” accompanies the painting, explaining Quashie’s concept and containing short descriptions of the people and events depicted.
Panel 1—Princeville, North Carolina
Freedom Hill was a community of freed slaves following the Civil War. In 1885 it was renamed after ex-slave Turner Prince and incorporated as Princeville, NC. It is the oldest incorporated municipality of freed slaves in America. The Town Hall, originally a Rosenwald school, is now the community's African-American museum.
Panel 2—Pea Island Lifesavers
The Pea Island Life-Saving Station on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was the first life-saving station in the country to have an all-black crew, and a black man, Richard Etheridge, as commanding officer.
Panel 3—Menhaden Fishing Fleet and Chanteymen
Beaufort, North Carolina, is the menhaden capital of the world. The shipboard crews employed by the fisheries were predominantly black over the years and the work assigned to them was physically demanding. To help ease and pace this extraordinary labor, the men sang "chanteys" or worksongs that were drawn from many sources, including hymns and gospel songs, blues, and barbershop quartet songs, and were often improvised.
Panel 4—Parrish Street, Durham, North Carolina
In the early twentieth century, Parrish Street in Durham, North Carolina, was the hub of African American business activity. This four-block district was known as “Black Wall Street." Although other cities had similar districts, Durham’s was one of the most vital and was nationally known.
Panel 5—North Carolina School Integration
After the integration of Charlotte schools in 1957, many whites showed their objection by refusing to allow their children to ride school buses with black children.
Panel 6—U.S. Colored Regiment
The 27th regiment of US Colored Troops, under the command of Gen. Charles Paine, played a prominent role in the capture of Fort Fisher in February 1865, after which they constituted the vanguard of the Union's march on Wilmington.
Panel 7—Somerset Place Plantation
The Somerset Place Plantation was North Carolina's third largest by 1860. Designated as a State Historic Site in 1969. In 1986 Dorothy Spruill Redford planned a gathering of descendants of slaves known as Somerset Homecoming. More than 3,000 descendants nationwide attended the homecoming at the plantation.
Panel 8—Dr. King and Ralph Abernathy
A week after the sit-ins began, F.W. Woolworth temporarily closed the lunch counter. Two weeks later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy came to Greensboro to lend their support to the movement
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Colin Quashie began his art career in 1989 and is best known for challenging audiences with his brand of controversial social commentary. Since 1996 he has financed his art by writing comedy for television and freelancing as a graphic artist. Born in London, England, he currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina.