Inspired by George Floyd protests, local artist paints ode to Raleigh's Black Main Street

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
NC artist paints ode to Raleigh's Black Main Street
Inspired to do more after George Floyd's murder, TJ Mundy painted murals along E Hargett Street, once a commercial center of Black life in a segregated Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Like so many after George Floyd's murder by police, one year ago Tuesday, TJ Mundy felt moved to march - fists clenched, chanting for social justice up and around downtown Raleigh.

"I was heartbroken. I was angry," Mundy said "I had never been to any protest or any organizing like that before either. The pandemic was in full swing and I think everyone was like we just had enough so we all had to go say something about it. And once it all kind of died down a little, I said there's got to be more we could do."

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Yearning to do more - Mundy, a graphic artist from Carrboro, found inspiration on the 100 block of East Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.

With backing from Raleigh ArtBeats, the city, along with Mundy's partner and supporters, the artist spent three weeks in April painting murals along what was long-known as Raleigh's Black Main Street.

From the 1910s to the 1960s, it was a mecca for Black life downtown when Jim Crow segregation divided the city in Black and white.

"In a time where we were really made to feel like we didn't belong anywhere, we had this street -- like barbershops and doctors and dentists."

Mundy painted a mural in front of where Black-owned Lightner Arcade and Hotel once stood before it burned down where the GO Raleigh Transit Center now stands. There's another mural pointing to the Delaney-Evans Building-- that once housed the city's second Black dentist and first Black public library.

And of course there's a mural in front of Hamlin Drug Store. It's been Black-owned for 100 years. Dr. John Johnson, was the pharmacist here for six decades.

"I don't know how to get in touch with them. I hope (the Johnson family) sees this and know they're not forgotten," Mundy said standing in front of Hamlin.

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Out of a movement came a mural. It stretches one square block telling a history many never knew.

"I think it's great. Took a lot of hours, a lot of effort," Mundy said.

Some of the old Raleighites who know the history have seen the art. Some, Mundy says, have stopped to say "thank you." It was enough to bring tears to this artist's eyes.

"It just makes me emotional that it's so important to everybody," Mundy said tearfully. "Because this is the least I could do is paint some stuff and show people about Black history and how important it is."

The paint used for the murals is expected to last about three years before it fades. You can see it for yourself starting at the corner of Hargett and Blount streets. You can walk and read the history right down to Wilmington Street.