Art Collection

Public School Art


Back to Search Page

ACRYLIC ON MASONITE, 6'-6" X 100'-2"

Ernest Crichlow’s exterior mural for Boys’ and Girls’ High School is the culmination of his lifelong dedication to examining and presenting the full spectrum of the African American experience without sentimentality or sensationalism.


The mural extends 110 feet, the length of the portico, and is 7 feet high.  Bracketed between an image of the student and an image of the future, the story unfolds.  Reading from left to right, the mural begins with a bold, sculptural head, a meditative portrait of “the student.” This establishes the present.  In the next panel, the mural returns to the past, to the brutal history of slavery--the slave auction and slave labor--but evolves into figures reaching forward, transformed into basketball players, transmuted into leaping figures throwing spears. The African landscape, peopled with a stencil-like chain of slaves, follows.  The viewer is then jolted back to the present with a sequence of images depicting the contemporary student-- reading, thinking, and participating with raised hand.  Toward the center of the mural, Crichlow represents the American south and its association with cotton.  Juxtaposed next to the panel showing agricultural labor, a student bends over a paper and another performs science experiments. This sequence segues into a world map, featuring a projection showing a more accurately sized North America in relation to Africa and the other continents, framed by three sets of hands--white, black and brown--reaching across to suggest world unity. Next, Africa presented as a hybrid African sculpture stands in front of simplified Egyptian pyramids, the angular architectural forms becoming legs, arms and torsos in the next set of panels. This group of stick-like figures in brown, black and white, and linked together in solidarity, conjures up visions of civil rights marchers.  Racing to the mural’s conclusion, out of this village of protestors rises a black infant clasped in strong black hands, symbolizing hope for the future. 


The mural’s organization was a challenge that Crichlow solved admirably by using painted architectural elements, shifts in scale, and cubistic forms.  To keep the image sequence dynamic, Crichlow combined simplified and flatly painted forms with more mottled, painterly areas.  The whole mural is washed in soft tones of pale lemon, blue, green, and brown, a pleasing complement to the red brick of the building.


Schools in building:
Boys and Girls High School
Research and Service High School
Nelson Mandela High School

Find related art work:

Time Period
Civil Rights Era Art