40-foot mural of history unveiled at Mildred Terry Library

More than 100 friends of the Mildred L. Terry Library attended the unveiling of a 40-foot wide mural Saturday that honors the legacy of the library, its staff and the Liberty District neighborhood that it has served for 66 years.

Created by Columbus-based artist Najee Dorsey, the colorful multimedia collage highlights a history that began with the founding of the Fourth Avenue Library in 1953 — the city’s segregated library. Under Terry, it became the community center, educational support and safe haven for neighborhood residents.

The mural features scenes from everyday life, images of icons from the community, celebrates life in the district and pays tribute to the three women who have served as branch librarians over the years: Mildred L. Terry, Helene Watson and the current librarian, Sylvia Bunn.

“It took three years after the opening of the Bradley in 1950 for the African-American community to get its own library,” Alan Harkness, director of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries told the audience. “But look what that library has done for its community.”

Through tears, Dorsey told the crowd gathered on what was the 66th anniversary of the library’s opening, “stories untold are stories forgotten, and to have the opportunity to share this history with this community now, to document what happened in the past and reach toward the future together, collectively, and have a visual representation of that, is extremely important. I wanted to make sure that I gave everything that I had to give with this mural.”

Helene Watson grew up on Third Avenue and spent her days in the Fourth Avenue Library. She took over as branch manager when the new facility was built in 1981, and remembers Mildred Terry as a gentle person who cared about everyone.

“It’s always been a place of belonging and learning,” Watson said. “Miss Terry knew your name. She would call your grandma if you didn’t go straight home, and we knew that. She loved her community.”

Carver High student and poet Michaela Brown shared her thoughts during a poetry slam to end the celebration.

“Sixty-six years ago, a vision was born, an image of what the future could be,” she said. “This birthplace of black educational opportunities has and will continue to serve as a nursery for so many citizens to take the first steps in reaching their potential, and achieving future success.”