Leon & Michael Spinks, Dr. Lee Blount, Marvin Neals, and Jo Ann Wayne

From Vacancy to Agency: St. Louis Murals of Redemption

Leon & Michael Spinks, Dr. Lee Blount, Marvin Neals, and Jo Ann Wayne

St. Louis, Missouri 63107, United States

Created By: Mural Tours


Leon and Michael Spinks, as shown in this mural, are brothers and professional boxers born and raised in north St. Louis. Leon is best known for one of the biggest upsets in boxing when he won unanimously against Muhammed Ali for the heavyweight championship of the world on February 15, 1978 (Lipping 343). Michael also had an incredibly lucrative career, with a record of thirty-one wins, including a heavyweight championship, and only one loss (344). Despite their success later in life, the brothers had a rough childhood growing up in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, an urban-renewal project that had promised to mark the end of the urban slum in 1954 (Florio and Shapiro 1). Instead of fulfilling this promise, the developers had been “skimping on materials” and the Priutt-Igoe was already falling apart before tenants moved in. The project also heightened the racial conflict in St. Louis, and the apartments were segregated—with Pruitt for Black residents and Igoe for whites (2). For the men living in this project, “there seemed to be only two means of survival: join a gang or learn how to box” (5). Luckily for them, Leon and Michael Spinks took the second route, and they became local heroes. This redemption arc serves the purpose of Chris Green and Better Family Lifes’ mural project perfectly. The brothers experienced firsthand one of the racially prejudiced policies that has contributed to the vacancy of houses on Page and decline of neighborhoods in St. Louis, but they were able to make their way out of the poverty and pain of the Pruitt-Igoe project. The original picture used by Green as a reference for this mural can be found on the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame website. In the original photograph, the Spinks brothers are shirtless and posing with their boxing gloves, but Green chose to instead dress them in suit jackets with matching red ties.

This point of interest is part of the tour: From Vacancy to Agency: St. Louis Murals of Redemption


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