Maya Angelou and Mavis Thompson

From Vacancy to Agency: St. Louis Murals of Redemption

Maya Angelou and Mavis Thompson

St. Louis, Missouri 63107, United States

Created By: Mural Tours


In this mural, Chris Green paints a widely known subject—Maya Angelou. However, her birthplace of St. Louis may be lesser known. While Angelou was born in St. Louis in 1928, she moved away to Arkansas at age three and then returned when she was seven (Mickle 263). In St Louis, during her formative years, Angelou learned about urban degradation, violence, political power, and political corruption—all of which informed who she became as an adult, according to her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Heims 59). Maya Angelou is known for her written work, but she is featured in Chris Green’s mural project and in this exhibition because of her activism—both in and outside of her poetry and memoirs. Angelou worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., becoming the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helping to create the Cultural Association for Women of African Heritage (Graves 6). Her poem “Still I Rise” embodies many of the redemptive, hopeful themes highlighted by Better Family Life and Chris Greens’ mural project. While she dealt with painful experiences growing up as a child in St. Louis, including a sexual assault and trauma following the assault, she became an important hero for many and an activist who changed lives—and continues to change lives. In Green’s portrait, Angelou’s expression and overall demeanor is one that feels intimate, warm, and familiar. This is also reflected in the warm-tone colors he uses in her red shirt and the bright orange background. Green’s depiction of Angelou in this way is important because it makes her someone with whom community members can identify, someone whom they can aspire to become. However, these bright, saturated, warm colors also continue to express the importance of this project and of the figures demonstrated, as well as reflect the fiery activist spirit within Angelou that should not be subdued.

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


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