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Studio Art Intern, Ashley Dotson, shares the special relationship that the murals have had with her during her experience at Dartmouth.
Florian Jenkins (b. 1940) was hired to paint the murals of the Shabazz Center on campus, and arrived in the summer of 1972. During his time in Hanover, Jenkins had many conversations with students about their experiences at Dartmouth and their hopes for the future. Together, through these conversations, they came up with the concept for the murals: to depict the life and legacy of Malcolm X, an important historical figure in the civil rights movement who had visited the Dartmouth campus during his political career. By mid-October, Jenkins lined the walls of with a set of seven inspirational panels that spoke to the struggle of black students at Dartmouth. The goal was to inspire the students to continue to thrive in an environment where they were marginalized, and to inspire future black students to do the same.
"The murals in Shabazz have always maintained a special relationship with me and my Dartmouth experience. After getting accepted to Dartmouth early decision I came to visit the campus with my parents during spring break of my senior year in high school. My dad (pictured with me in the image of the left), who is a member of the Dartmouth class of 1982, was adamant that we go visit the “AAm” to see the murals. This was a sentiment that he has held my entire time at Dartmouth. Every time he comes to visit me on campus he will ask to go see the murals once again because he wants to “make sure they are still there.” That was his way of expressing how important and integral the murals and the building were to his Dartmouth experience. Many of his fondest memories as a student at Dartmouth took place in that building and he remembers the murals as being a symbol of home that he and his friends found inside of the building.
Once I arrived at Dartmouth I found myself spending a lot of my time with the murals in Shabazz while talking to friends, doing homework, or attending meetings. Then, my sophomore year I moved into the dorm and I was surround by them everyday. In my experience, the murals established the building and the gathering rooms as a safe space. The walls tell a story about the determination of black people in this country and serve to reinforce the idea that this building is ours. Here we are free to have open conversations about our experiences as black students on campus, to plan events and protests, and to be ourselves. Working on this project during my senior year has been a way for me to give back to the space and learn about these murals that make the building so special."
Please visit Ashley's website for more information and photos of the murals: