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Explore Raleigh’s Black Main Street history with new murals

Photo courtesy of the artist

Once, East Hargett Street was the hub of Black life in Raleigh.

The segment between Moore Square and Fayetteville Street was known as Raleigh’s Black Main Street, and Black-owned businesses thrived in the 1910s-1960s.

The businesses included a pharmacy, restaurant, newspaper, hotel and other community gathering spots.

While much of this history isn’t visible now, a new sidewalk mural project by artist TJ Mundy memorializes Raleigh’s Black Main Street.

How to see the murals

Begin at Moore Square and head west toward Wilmington Street. There, you’ll see the murals with arrows pointing to the exact location of these culturally significant locations.

The murals in the series

Descriptions in quotes from artists’ statement. The series is part of the Raleigh ArtsBeats program.

Photo by Raleigh Convergence

Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Building, 115 East Hargett Street 

“The Odd Fellows building was a factory until 1891, when it became the office and assembly  space for the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows were a Black fraternal  organization with the purpose of benefiting the community through mutual aid.”

The chain links with the letters F, L and T notes the location of the organization’s former meeting place, which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.

Photo by Raleigh Convergence

Hamlin Drug Store, 126 East Hargett Street 

“Hamlin Drug was purchased in 1957 by Clarence C. Coleman & Dr. John M. Johnson. It was the  oldest African American-owned pharmacy in North Carolina. Dr. Johnson delivered medications  by car, created a pay-what-you-can system for government employees, and ran the pharmacy  counter for 60 years.”

Lightner Arcade & Hotel, 122 East Hargett Street

“Built in 1921 by Charles E. Lightner, a local businessman, Lightner Arcade was one of the few  places for Black travelers of the time. From the 1920s-1940s the Arcade was the premier social  hub of Raleigh’s Black community & housed a barber shop, drugstore, newspaper, & restaurant.  The building burned down in 1968.”

Photo by Raleigh Convergence

Delany-Evans Building, 133 East Hargett St 

“The Delany-Evans Building, also known as the Dental Building, was founded in 1926 by Dr.  Lemuel Delany & Dr. George Evans, the second Black dentist in Raleigh. In 1935 the first Black  public library in Wake County was founded in the building by Mollie Huston Lee, the first Black  librarian in Raleigh.”

Photo by Raleigh Convergence
Artist TJ Mundy with a work in progress. Photo is courtesy the artist.

We asked the artist, TJ Mundy, (who uses they/them pronouns) to share more about the project:

Q: How do you hope people engage with your murals when they see them? 

TJ: I hope that people will stop to read each mural, try to envision what things were like, and hopefully create a dialogue with others about the importance of Black History. We want this to be an introduction, but also a catalyst for people to learn and share more about Raleigh’s Black history and stories. 

Q: What do you hope people take away from the murals? 

TJ: I hope Black people will be left with a strong sense of pride and appreciation after seeing these murals highlighting our history and how strong our communities are. Everyone should take away the fact that Black people have been and will always be integral to the success and culture of those around us. The businesses and buildings may be gone, but the impact of their legacies will be passed down, and this mural serves to carry on that message. 

Q: You mentioned in your Instagram post that you were inspired by the Black-led organizing this summer in response to police violence. Could you share more on how the past and present connect? 

TJ: The actions of summer 2020 in Raleigh were loud echoes of the events during the US Civil Rights movement; we are still fighting the same fight because there are still so many people holding onto racism, discrimination, and hate against Black people. One of the many things I took away from the last year is that we can’t stop making our voices heard until real change happens. This mural serves to remind people of the amazing things Black people have achieved and will continue to achieve despite all odds. 

Q: What didn’t I ask you about that you want people to know? 

TJ: I would love to shout out everyone who helped with this project and got extremely hands-on for hours upon hours to make this huge idea into reality – they know who they are! I would also love to thank Christine Brenner, the owner of Read With Me, who amazingly provided us with the space to store our supplies while painting this mural.

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Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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