East of the River


Created: 1990

Sponsor: Sign of the Times Cultural Workshop and Gallery; DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

When Alex Mattison painted his monumental tribute to African American icons covering the rear of the East River Park Shopping Center in 1990, his mural was the largest in the city (130’ x 56’). Mattison’s goal was to create a landmark that local residents could relate to and learn from: he settled on 12 heroic individuals, drawn from a broad spectrum of American life: Sammy Davis, Jr.; Althea Gibson; James Baldwin; Billie Holiday; Malcolm X, Marian Anderson; W.E.B. DuBois; Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr.; Mary McLeod Bethune; Bill Cosby; and black Air Force general Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. The project was inspired by Sign of the Times Cultural Workshop and Gallery, Inc.; founded in 1970, the organization is among the oldest arts collectives in the city and the first east of the river.


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