JSU will unveil historic outdoor mural on COFO building honoring living, dead civil-rights legends; site once housed NAACP, SNCC, SCLC, CORE, others

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University’s Office of Community Engagement will present a historic unveiling during its COFO Mural Celebration at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 24, to pay homage to civil rights legends – living and dead – who blazed a path for equality. The mural, on the outside of the COFO building at 1017 John R. Lynch Street, is called “Chain Breakers.” It’s funded with an $8,000 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

COFO, an acronym for the Council of Federated Organizations and established in 1961, was a coalition of several major civil-rights groups in Mississippi. Under different names, they all coordinated to register voters and conduct other civil-rights activities. 

Among the distinguished guests will include Jacqueline Hamer Flakes, the daughter of Fannie Lou Hamer; Jason Robinson, a grandson of Rose Elizabeth Howard Robinson; Louise Marshall, the first African American bookstore owner in the Washington Addition community; Regina Orey, a niece of Albert Powell who was the first African American florist in the Washington Addition; state Rep. Alyce G. Clarke of House District 69; and Angela Stewart, archivist for JSU’s Margaret Walker Center.

Dr. Heather Denné, director of Community Engagement, said, “We started this journey about two years ago to create art in our communities. We always wanted murals because of the lack of art.”

In 1971, the COFO building was reopened and now is operated by JSU as the COFO Civil Rights Education Center. It aims to preserve the past, cultivate young minds and foster the development of future leaders and community builders. 

As an umbrella group, COFO aided many civil-right groups, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Denné said JSU commissioned Jackson artist Sabrina Howard for the project. Howard has created other eye-catching murals that have garnered widespread attention. Her work includes the Milton Chambliss Shoe Hospital mural in the 900 block of John R. Lynch Street and another called “Sowing the Seeds of Love” at the JSU/Blackburn Learning Garden near the main campus of the university.