Fifth Ward Mural

Fifth Ward Mural
A large mural depicting the history of the Fifth Ward is the first sight to greet people as they enter one of Houston's oldest African-American neighborhoods. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the mural is the result of a seed grant from the History Channel.

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The Fruits of the Fifth Ward mural stands at the corner of Lyons Avenue and Schwartz Street. It's the first thing you see when entering the Fifth Ward. Museum of Cultural Arts Houston Executive Director Reginald Adams oversaw the mural project. He helped students from Phyllis Wheatley High School design and construct the 50-foot long historical mural.

"Those students helped collect news articles, old photographs. They developed a timeline of the neighborhood, from 1865 when all of the wards were established in Houston up until the present day. And then we selected about 50-plus names of individuals that had made significant contributions to the community and abroad. And out of those 50 or so names, we culled that list down to approximately 21, which are the 21 individuals that we see here."

The project started when MOCAH received a $10,000 grant from the History Channel to create a mural documenting the history of the Fifth Ward. That grant served as seed money to fund what ended up being a $120,000 research and art installation. The History Channel's Marc Aronson says the Save Our History project shows students how to preserve local history.

"They built a magnificent work of art to memorialize what they discovered. And that's really the essence of Save Our History, the idea that kids find history to be an experience, an activity, a kind of detective story."

The Fruits of the Fifth Ward depicts portraits of 21 people who lived in and had an impact on the community. Mural portraits include Senator Barbara Jordan and Representative Mickey Leland, boxer George Foreman and blues musician Lightnin' Hopkins.

"As you're a kid, you take where you are for granted. You might easily think that the really exciting place is somewhere else, you know it's whatever you see on TV or read about on a website -- that's where it's really happening. But when you really start to look at where you live, as the kids did here in the Fifth Ward, they found out what a rich environment they were living in. And I think that's very encouraging. It tells you that you matter, where you live matters."

MOCAH's Reginald Adams adds the mural has a psychological effect for area residents -- saying just as looking at a pile of garbage every day would be discouraging -- looking at a mural depicting strong leaders is inspiring.

"What we hope is that the mural becomes a landmark, that people start recognizing oh yeah when you get to Lyons and you see that mural, make a left or make a right and I think it has that kind of power."

The Fruits of the Fifth Ward is being dedicated to the community tomorrow morning at 10am. The address is 1500 Schwartz. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...