In 1959 the Hungarian-American illustrator and muralist Hugo Gellert created the series Seward Park Housing Murals. The four-panel mural series depicts Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Albert Einstein and was commissioned by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The Abraham Lincoln panel has an abolitionist section that features Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and William Lloyd Garrison.The mural was threatened with destruction many times, including in 1996 when the building residents voted to become a private co-op. Individuals on the co-op board then voted to rid the lobby of the murals that they deemed racist, ugly, socialist or 'past their time.' But the building manager, Frank Durant, insisted on their preservation.
An unknown artist painted this mural in Harlem, New York City, on the facade of Dining Heritage. It depicts the abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Malcolm X. It was destroyed in 2015.
This mural was painted in the Bronx, New York City by an unnamed artist and depicts Frederick Douglass in the later years of his life, and the phrase "Education is the pathway to freedom." it had been destroyed by 2016.
This mural, part of a wider series called La Lucha Continua/The Struggle Continues, is split into two halves. The bottom half shows anonymous arms merchants in suits, and the top portrait shows portraits of local residents alongside the leaders Nelson Mandela, Daniel Ortega, Robert F. Williams and the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, among others.
In 2005, Artmakers Inc. created a large-scale political mural titled When Women Pursue Justice. During the genesis of the mural, it seemed like an overly ambitious project with little funding, and a heavy reliance on the generosity of its collaborators. Located in Brooklyn, at the busy intersection between Nostrand and Greene Avenue, the mural is populated with women who worked towards justice and social change over the last 150 years. The most visually noticeable figure on the mural is the thirty-five-foot image of Shirley Chisholm astride a golden horse and dressed in armour of African mud and kente cloth. Surrounding Chisholm are 90 women who risked their lives and liberty to achieve voting rights, civil rights, racial justice, health and reproductive rights, and environmental justice and protection – including the abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, as well as Angela Davis, Wilma Mankiller, Margaret Sanger, and Dorothy Day.
In 1999, artist Christopher Wynter created a mosaic installation at the Cathedral Parkway subway station in Harlem. He explained that the 3-part mosaic series titled Migrations “present the ideas of uprooting, migration, and progress in symbolic form." The installation features Frederick Douglass and was placed in the subway station that runs underneath Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
Two years prior to the Texas Centennial Exposition, Aaron Douglas created a four-part mural series titled Aspects of Negro Life, to be housed in the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center. The various panels portray black history from slavery through to present. The various panels are titled, The Negro in an African Setting, From Slavery Through Reconstruction, Song of the Towers, and An Idyll of the Deep South, and depict the breaking of chains, the idea of self-emancipation, liberation, and the celebration of African culture.
In 1973, Cityarts Workshop muralist James Jannuzzi painted a mural in New York City about Puerto Rican abolition, gang culture and black heritage. The mural includes a shirtless, muscular figure playing drums in a tropical landscape, Nubian symbols such as the ankh next to pyramids, and Ramón Emeterio Betances – an abolitionist and the father of the Puerto Rican independence movement. In the centre of the mural, Jannuzzi painted seven spears, acknowledging the presence of the neighbourhood’s seven gangs through the use of colour. By 1978, the mural had already started to deteriorate. Wanting to use the mural as a background in a film, a production company sought out Jannuzzi, asking him to retouch sections of the mural. Having hung up his paintbrush already, Jannuzzi directed the production company to Cityarts' Alfredo “Freddy” Hernandez who retouched the mural with a Dancing Madonna. By 1995 all that remained of Afro Latin Coalition was the Dancing Madonna in her red and white dress, and by 2000, the entire mural has disappeared.
In 1990, this mural titled Nation of Islam at Charles Place in Brooklyn was created. The mural unites many radical figures of black history, including the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Elijah Muhammad, H. Rap Brown, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale. It has now been destroyed.
This mural was created in 2008 by an unknown artist. Painted on a storefront on Ralph Avenue in Brooklyn, it depicted Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Nelson Mandela. As of 2014, it no longer existed.
In 2001, Brooklyn-based muralist Leola Bermanzohn created a mural in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn titled Women Warriors. Bermanzohn works as a muralist for the Groundswell organisation, launched in 1996 with the mission of bringing together artists, youth and community organisations to create murals that beautify local neighbourhoods and give expression to underrepresented ideas and perspectives. Women Warriors was created in collaboration with Sister Outsider – an organisation run by and for women of colour that aimed to help women enter the professional world of work and operate in the political realm. The mural was at the organisation’s headquarters and depicted antislavery leaders Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth as well as Nefertiti, Rosa Parks and Assata Shakur, alongside a poem written by Audre Lorde. It had been destroyed by 2015.
In 2011, the Puffin Foundation commissioned Mike Alewitz to paint a mural for the Puffin Gallery of Social Activism that would be on display in the Museum of the City of New York. Completed in 2014, the mural is a tribute to the labour and social justice movements and contains four panels. It includes slave ships and depicts the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.However after viewing the mural, the museum declined to display it. They requested changes that reduced the prominence of Martin Luther King Jr. and added the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Alewitz calls this a case of censorship and continues to campaign for his mural to be displayed.
Mary Patten painted Douglass Street Mural – Cityarts Workshop’s first Brooklyn-based project – in 1976. Over a five-month period, Patten led a group of 20 teens and adults to develop various themes for the mural that would be located on Douglass Street in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn - an area more commercial than residential at the time. Community meetings and bilingual flyers filled the neighbourhood in the hope of garnering community input and consensus over the choice of imagery. The three-storey mural takes advantage of the building's structure by presenting the image as book pages waiting to be read. The dystopian nightmare to the right-hand side of the mural attempts to encroach on the multicultural utopian melting pot to the left, only to be fended off by workers and important figures from U.S. history. Folded into the Puerto Rican flag and the red, white and green banner of the African National Congress, are the images of Harriet Tubman, pointing towards the nightmare-scape, alongside Frederick Douglass, Lolita Lebrón, Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown. Under the imperialist eagle and puppet-like figure in its talons, Patten depicts a recent firebombing that had destroyed the homes of several Black families a few blocks away. Speaking of the large rainbow in the image, the muralist incorporated it to show "what is possible when people work and fight together to create what we need: a community school that provides quality education; people sharing skills and tools; dancing together; making music and painting a mural."The mural sought to convey hope and determination in the face of oppression. But by the 1980s, the mural had become obscured by new housing developments.
In 2009, the NYC Justice Corps created a mural on Nostrand Avenue and Herkimer Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The NYC Justice Corps was created as part of the city’s strategy to combat poverty and has the mission to “develop the capacity of neighborhoods to address the reintegration challenges of their young adults re-entering from the criminal justice system, and to instil in those young adults a sense of civic responsibility and accountability.”The mural includes the faces of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Bob Marley and Huey P. Newton, as well as the antislavery figures Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
This mural was painted by an anonymous artist around 2007 and no longer exists, but is an important example of both the ephemeral and guerrilla nature of murals: some last for short periods of time on buildings and streets in communities. This particular mural was created in West Harlem and focused on the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Borrowing his famous phrase from 1857, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” the muralist also adds a drumming figure to the centre of the mural.