We Are Poughkeepsie Mural Celebrates Local Heroes
Poughkeepsie Middle School is the new home of a collaborative mural designed by Hudson Valley artist Mary Haddad and fifteen Poughkeepsie City School District elementary students. Created during an arts and academics-themed camp at The Art Effect, the We Are Poughkeepsie mural celebrates many of Poughkeepsie’s luminaries who revolutionized medicine, fought discrimination, served in the military, broke barriers, and literally reached for the stars. The students who contributed to this mural hope that all who view it at its new home in the middle school will be inspired, just as they were by the historical heroes depicted. Learn more about The Art Effect’s summer camps.
The young artists that worked on the painting include: Rafael Andujar-McNeil, A’Nyah McNeil, NaLay Jennings, Malana Myers, Jaivon Williams, Emerson Birrittella, Vencott Smith Jr., Is’Real Whitted, Gabriella Flanagan, Cameron Smith, Prince Brown, Dasim Washington, Samaad Paulin, Siraj Paulin, and Sharif Paulin. The camp instructors were The Art Effect instructor Donna Mikkelson, with the academic portion taught by Poughkeepsie City School District educator Shireen Cader.
The program was made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Poughkeepsie City School District, The Art Effect, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the Poughkeepsie Public Library, and Hudson Valley’s artists and art educators.
Significant figures featured include (from left to right):
- Sadie Peterson Delaney (1889-1958): A poet and internationally recognized librarian, Sadie attended Poughkeepsie High School and was a member of the Zion Church of Poughkeepsie. Sadie’s activism began at age 15, when she read an original poem advocating for equal voting rights in front of Poughkeepsie’s Equal Suffrage League. She studied to be a librarian in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. She later pursued her career at Tuskegee Veterans Adminsitration Hospital, where she revolutionized the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental and physical disorders.
- Gaius Bolin (1965-1946): The first Black student to attend and graduate from Williams College, Gaius began his life and education in Poughkeepsie. In 1892, he passed the bar exam and became the only Black lawyer in the city. He was a founding member of the Dutchess County NAACP, was named the first Black president of the Dutchess County Bar Association, and in 1901, he was appointed by then-New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt to the NY State Board of Managers. Throughout his life, Gaius fought against racism: challenging discrimination by the president of Vassar College, protesting the discriminator practices of the local YMCA, and pursuing his profession unafraid of the then-active KKK.
- Jane Bolin (1908-2007): Daughter of Gaius Bolin, Jane attended Poughkeepsie public schools and graduated from Wellesley College. She was the first Black woman to accomplish many things in the legal profession, including to graduate from Yale Law School, to pass the NY State bar exam, to hold the position of assistant corporate counsel, and to serve as a judge in the United State. Throughout her career, she challenged segregationist policies, and she served on the board of the NAACP and the NY Urban League.
- Annie Marie Lawrence Bolin (1836-1910): Mother of Gaius Bolin and grandmother of Jane Bolin, Annie Marie lived her whole life in Poughkeepsie. She and her husband Abram raised their family at 35 North Clinton Street. Annie Mraie was a prominent member of the local community. Throughout her lifetime, she witnessed monumental changes in American society, and she inspired future generations of her family to break barriers.
- Walter Patrice (1919-2018): A lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie, Walter served in World War II as First Lieutenant 389th in the Engineer General Service Regiment in Europe. He returned home to have an enormous impact on his local community; he served on the City of Poughkeepsie Recreation Commission, the Poughkeepsie Planning Board, the Executive Men’s Club of Poughkeepsie, The Colored Troops Museum of Hartwick College, and the American Society of Manufacturing Engeineers. He had a keen interest in history and founded the Black History Project Committee in the Dutchess County Historical Society. For his accomplishments, he was honored by the Catharine Street Community Center, the Sports Hall of Fame for Johnson C. Smith College, the Dutchess County Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Dutchess County Sports Museum Hall of Fame.
- Maria Mitchell (1818-1889): Maria was a librarian, educator, and the first-recognzied female astronomer in the United States; though she reached astronomical heights, she always called Poughkeepsie her home. Maria attended and taught at Vassar College. Her best-known accomplishment took place here in Poughkeepsie when she discovered a telescopic comet using a two-inch telescope. This comet was later named after her, and earned Maria a gold medal from King Frederic VI of Denmark. She founded the Association for the Advancement of Woman, and was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1905, she was one of three women elected to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans and was an inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. A lunar crater on the moon is also named in her honor.