As Chatham Park continues to develop its community, they remain dedicated to supporting local art in Chatham County. As part of that commitment, Chatham Park is powering our Go See This series. They join us in inviting you to Go See This . . .
On June 17, a brilliantly colored glass-printed mural will be displayed at George Moses Horton Middle School, honoring the contributions of seven Black trailblazers of Chatham County. The Truth-Justice-Reconciliation mural will serve as a lasting tribute to those who have endeavored to embody these values in their lives and work.
Members of the East Chatham NAACP and West Chatham NAACP, in collaboration with the Community Remembrance Coalition Chatham (CRC-C), led the Truth-Justice-Reconciliation mural project. The group’s mission was to represent the critical contributions of the Black community over time, from the 18th century to today. Working together, they selected the seven trailblazers featured on the mural, and tapped Durham-based artist David Wilson to bring them to life for future generations.
“My background is in fine arts and graphic design,” Mr. Wilson says. “But in 1999 or 2000, I shifted my focus to public art. I wanted something more lasting and impactful.” His previous work beautifies the John Chavis Memorial Park in Raleigh, the Gantt Center for African-American Arts in Charlotte, and many other sites in North Carolina. Putting his artistry to work here in Chatham County, Mr. Wilson declares that he was “pulled in by the local Black history. It reminded me of my own upbringing in rural West Virginia.”
The individuals featured on the mural worked in fields such as law enforcement, healthcare, and education–skilled positions that are the cornerstone of any community. They broke barriers, fueled growth, and provided indispensable services to their neighbors. Reverend Rufus Vassie Horton was a poet, preacher, entrepreneur, and a servant of the people. He provided counsel to those in Chatham County that needed it, and he always encouraged the youth to be their best. Mrs. Cordie Glover Leake (Mama Cordie) was a midwife. Over 42 years, she delivered 1,200 babies, both Black and white, throughout Chatham County. Mr. Edgar Bland was the first Black man to join the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department. Their stories, and those with whom they share space in this mural–Geraldine DeGraffenreidt, Lillie Rodgers, Charlie Baldwin Sr., and Isaiah Taylor–will be passed down to the next generation of community leaders. Their legacy will now inspire a wider and more diverse group of residents, some of whom may never before have heard their names.
Ms. Mary Nettles, the President of CRC-C and the Chatham County Eastern Chapter of the NAACP, shares her own stories of these trailblazers: “This is known history for us, we lived it. Rufus Vassie Horton, the minister, I worked for him at one time. When he would pick me up at home and drive me to work at his store, he would be just flying on this dirt road, Mitchells Chapel Road. So, I knew certain things that he did. He was a water dowser. He had – I called it a wishbone – he would come to the store and get it and go out to find water for people in the county.” Reverend Horton was also a blood relative to the namesake of George Moses Horton Middle School, the poet who was born into slavery in North Carolina, forbidden to read or write, yet whose inspiring works came to be lauded by Black and white readers alike.
Displaying this mural at George Moses Horton Middle School, itself rich with Black history, gives future generations of all racial and cultural backgrounds the opportunity to learn about these remarkable individuals and their impact on Chatham County. The mural will feature QR codes, tethering the work of art to internet articles, where folks can learn more. “If we know the history of the Black community in this county, and we can understand and appreciate it,” says NAACP member Bob Pearson, “that’s a great foundation for everybody moving together to do things better for all of the people in Chatham County.” The mural will be included in the African American History Walking Tour for PIttsboro, NC, where residents and visitors can explore the many preserved cultural sites and lost gathering places of the Black community. It will serve as a reminder of the importance of striving for truth, justice, and reconciliation in our county, and provide an inspiring example of how art can be used to promote positive values, celebrate diversity, and bring people together.
- When: Saturday, June 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- Where: George Moses Horton Middle School, 79 George Moses Horton Rd.
- Cost: Free
- Parking: Visitor parking on site
- Accessibility: Accessible parking and grounds
- For more info:
- Chatham County Western Chapter of the NAACP, Branch 5378
- Chatham County Eastern Chapter of the NCAAP, Branch 5277
- Community Remembrance Coalition Chatham (CRC-C)
- African American History Walking Tour Pittsboro, NC
- Artist David Wilson
- Chatham County Historical Association’s Black Chathamites