Breaking News
More () »

Chinatown storefront plywood from protests turned into murals, honoring civil rights activists from the 1963 March On Washington

The powerful street art started earlier this year in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody.

WASHINGTON — During Friday’s March on Washington, a small group of local artists quietly painted murals in Chinatown, honoring 'the Big Six', who organized the original March on Washington in 1963. 

The powerful street art started earlier in the summer, in response to social justice protests here in DC and across the nation.

In June, shattered glass covered the streets of Chinatown in Northwest, D.C. The death of George Floyd led to protests and deep questions about our nation's problem with inequity. But blight in Chinatown quickly turned into beauty. 

Artists commissioned by the nonprofit Paints Institute used acrylic paints and spray cans, spreading the colorful message of hope and unity, but also expressing pain too.

RELATED: 'This is just our journey' | Multigenerational family attends March on Washington together

During Friday's March on Washington, six more murals took shape. Every brush stroke honored the organizers of the original March on Washington 57 years ago. 

Credit: WUSA9

They were:

  • John Lewis, Chairman, Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee; 
  • Whitney Young, National Director, Urban League; 
  • A. Philip Randolph, President, Negro American Labor Council; 
  • Martin Luther King Jr., President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference;
  • James Farmer, Director, Congress of Racial Equality;
  • Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

The murals, painted live on August 28 and 29, will be added to the exhibition.

There are 24 murals in total dubbed "Murals that Matter". 

They will be displayed in front of the National Building Museum until November. The National Building Museum says its doors have been closed since March due to the pandemic. While the museum is still holding virtual events, it says the outdoor exhibition has been a welcome change.

Several of the artists today put the finishing touches on their artwork. The Paints Institute hopes to move these murals this winter to DC elementary schools where they will find permanent homes.

In September, the Museum will host a Murals That Matter discussion on both the Gallery Place Murals as well as the larger role and importance of art in the public realm. Panelists will include Chisholm of the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute; mural artist Levi Robinson; Tim Wright of Attucks Adams, a D.C.-based history tour organization; and others. More information about the event will be shared once the program is finalized.

RELATED: 'How did we get here?' | In the middle of a pandemic, thousands march for racial justice

RELATED: Faith leaders walk more than a hundred miles to join fight for racial justice at March on Washington

Download the brand new WUSA9 app here.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news

Before You Leave, Check This Out