Holloway High School mural covers scar from aftermath of segregation

Nancy DeGennaro, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal
Published 12:52 p.m. CT Sept. 17, 2020 | Updated 12:57 p.m. CT Sept. 17, 2020



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On Wednesday, Holloway High School administration unveiled a new mural that covers visible wounds connected to the school’s past and segregation. 

The colorful design features all three mascots in the school’s history — Trojans, Rockets and now the Hawks — paired with symbols of education encircled with words from the original alma mater, “A school on a hill that we all love and adore.”

“You can’t tell it anymore. It’s a beautiful work of art celebrating (the school’s past),” said Holloway High School Principal Sumatra Drayton. “You can see reverence for the school and how we have something to be proud of instead of a reminder of the pain of closing the school (after integration in 1968).”

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The new mural painted by Experience Community Church at Holloway High School incorporates all three mascots in the school’s history: the Trojan, the Rocket and the Hawk. A reception was held for the mural at the school on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Photo: HELEN COMER/DNJ)

Holloway, at the end of South Highland Avenue in Murfreesboro, was built in 1929 for Black children and named for E.C. White, a white attorney who pushed for improved education for African American children.

By the 1950s, the original structure was too small for the burgeoning student body. So the Rutherford County Commission approved the addition of a building, renovated the existing school and added new equipment. The original gym still stands today. 

After all grades in Tennessee schools were desegregated in 1968 — nearly 15 years after the Supreme Court ruled segregation unconstitutional — Holloway was closed and the main building that connected the other two structures was demolished.

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“When they tore it down, they didn’t even give (the community) notice. They tore it down with the trophies and composite photos still inside,” Drayton said. “There’s still a bitter taste … about what was done.”

Today the school serves all students from Rutherford County and offers an accelerated program for those who need to catch up on course credits to graduate on time, or ahead of schedule. 

But what was left from that act of destruction was an unsightly reminder of the past, Drayton said. 

“They took that building away and left us with a big scar,” Drayton said.

Partnership leads to beautification

Nearly three years ago, Experience Community Church in Murfreesboro approached Holloway in hopes of adopting the school to help with improvement projects.

When Experience Pastor Corey Trimble toured the school, he talked with Drayton about the possibility of the church’s art ministry painting a mural to cover up the wall.

Completing a mural on the two-story building would be a massive undertaking.

In the meantime, the art ministry painted all the school’s bathroom stalls with inspirational messages.

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The recent mural painted by Experience Community Church at Holloway High School was the second art project done by the church at the school. A year ago the church painted inspirational sayings in the bathrooms at the school. (Photo: HELEN COMER/DNJ)

“We didn’t have anybody to really oversee the project. But we finally landed a time when we could get it done,” said lead mural artist Crystal O’Neal.

So two weeks ago, O’Neal and two other art ministry members began the project that would cover the 25-foot-tall wall that stretches 54 feet in length.

“We worked on it all day, in the hot sun, every day except Sunday,” O’Neal said.

While the heat was a challenge, O’Neal said the hardest part was overcoming her fear of making the mural look good.

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“It was the first time I’d done a mural that size using a grid method. But one of our art ministry leaders was able to get a grid up there and sketch it out. Once we started, it all came together great,” O’Neal said.

The best part, O’Neal said, was knowing the mural gave everyone “something nice to look at” instead of seeing an ugly reminder of segregation.

“Our church is very supportive of the arts. … Our biggest goal is having a ministry that is able to go into the community and make things beautiful and enjoyable while sharing the love of Jesus in the process. It’s very important to us we’re able to do that,” O’Neal said. “Art is very impactful, and to be able to use it that way has been very rewarding.”

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Holloway High School physical education teacher Kayla Wainwright, left, and biology teacher Sydney Buvvaji cut the cake during a reception for a mural painted by Experience Community Church at the school on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Photo: HELEN COMER/DNJ)

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Drayton said she’s happy to highlight the legacy of Holloway and there was a celebration of the accomplishment, with cake for everyone in attendance at the unveiling.

“We just want people to know we want to be good stewards (of the school). A lot of great people came out this school and we want to continue that legacy and love this school just like they did,” Drayton said. “We are really excited about (the mural). It’s changed the whole look.”

Reach Nancy DeGennaro at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @NanDeGennaro. Keep up with restaurant news by joining Good Eats in the ‘Boro (and beyond) on Facebook.

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