The Durham Civil Rights Mural is in Full Swing


by: Editor Aaron Mandel

It was my great good fortune to run into Brenda Miller working on the new Durham Civil Rights Mural earlier this week. I have been dropping by the in progress mural in the parking lot of the Durham Arts Council to take photos about once a week.

I know that the search to find a space to paint the mural was somewhat long and arduous.


I know many artists in the area have been generously donating their time and skills. Ms. Miller told the Clarion Content that painting was set to begin this weekend.




A young fan of the arts, who turned out to be Miller’s son, asked me as I was photographing, “if I had seen the basketball.” I wasn’t sure what the little man meant, I had been out to the mural site three or four times already and I hadn’t seen any “basketball.” Did he mean there was a rim somewhere around the back of the Arts Council? Surely, no.

But he determinedly insisted to me that there was basketball on the side, only when I went and looked where he was pointing did I realize what he meant. And when Miller descended from the scaffolding she explained that the basketball commemorated the legendary, “Secret Game” played between the North Carolina Central University basketball squad and the Duke University basketball squad outside the auspices of officialdom at those schools. It was documented in a wonderful (and perhaps under-viewed and under-valued) film called “Durham: A Self-Portrait” that gives a PBS-like depth to its rendering of Durham history.


The film tells of some of the sadder, more inhumane parts of Durham’s history as well as of the fellowship and progress. The head of the mural project Brenda Miller had a sadder tale to tell me as well. It was the fate of the mural on the adjacent building. Painted like so many of the murals in Durham by the renown Emily Weinstein, Miller happened to be there on the day it was covered over by the bland yellow wall that paved the way for progress.

mural gone

All that’s left of this…


is this

is this

Miller noted that the preservation of murals is crucial for the preservation of community memory. And the preservation of community memory is essential for the preservation of community and the community’s integrity in general.

The bland yellow wall now painted over Weinstein's mural

The bland yellow wall now painted over Weinstein’s mural

To me these demonstrations of our collective uniqueness are mini-testaments to what sets Durham apart. They are what make us the antithesis of the little boxes made of ticky-tacky, the pre-planned mini-autocracies run by HOAs. In Durham, beyond the loss of murals, we have witnessed the loss of a lot of historical building stock, too. Let’s hope as a community we are more careful with these collective treasures as we move forward.1



1We know Matthew Curran and Derek Toomes terrific mural on the green wall is destined to be short-lived. We are thinking of some of the other Emily Weinstein murals and some of the great old buildings.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

1 Comment

  • Reply June 26, 2015


    Love seeing the transformation. Thanks for sharing~

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