Washington Gladden

Columbus Social Justice Pioneers

The Columbus Social Justice Pioneers Exhibit was the first mural installed in the park at the time of its grand opening in October 2018.  The temporary exhibition was displayed until May 2022 and highlighted significant events and leaders that depicted the early social justice history in Central Ohio (late 1800’s and early 1900’s).  Many of the issues that faced the Columbus region then were impacting communities across the country.  There were many diverse interests and issues that were challenging the status quo and calling for a higher standard of social responsibility and ethical public service.  

Individuals and organizations highlighted in the mural include:  Society of American Indians, Rev. James Poindexter, Joseph Schonthal, Frances Watkins Harper, Rev. Dr. Washington Gladden, The Honorable Florence Allen, Celia Jeffrey, Bishop John Watterson, American Federation of Labor, and United Mine Workers of America.  Research was conducted by park volunteers with initial support from the staff of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.  The mural was designed by graphic artist Susan Hessler of Columbus.

Learning about the legacies of these pioneers for social justice allows you to witness the beginnings of major societal reforms as they took place in Columbus, Ohio.  Consider what surprises you.  What else or who else would you include as additional topics and leaders of the Columbus social justice movement since the early stages depicted in this mural?

A mobile exhibit and study guide for the Social Justice Pioneers Exhibit are in development and will allow the content of the mural to be shared in classrooms across Central Ohio.