Transcript of John Biggers

This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture and education.

With a bent back and powerful hands, an African American man figures prominently in a large mural in Houston's Blue Triangle YWCA. To his left, Harriet Tubman leads weary slaves to freedom. To his right, Sojourner Truth stands while children march proudly into a schoolhouse.

Dedicated in 1953, this mural—titled The Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education—was a milestone in the career of artist John Biggers. A longtime Houston resident, Biggers found his voice by depicting the heroic survival of his people. He said, "I began to see art . . . as a responsibility to reflect the spirit of the Negro people."

Biggers achieved recognition as an artist for his drawings and sculptures, but he is best known for his murals. These murals form a rich part of Houston’s visual and public landscape at Texas Southern University, the University of Houston, Tom Bass Park, and Christina V. Adair Park.

In 1949, Biggers was named chairman of the art department at the institution that would become Texas Southern University. Over the next thirty-four years Biggers trained the next generation of African American artists and teachers that form a vital part of Biggers’s legacy.

John Biggers left behind a body of work that as Maya Angelou stated, "leads us through his expressions into the discovery of ourselves at our most intimate level."

More information about John Biggers and other Texas Originals is available at This program is produced by KUHF Houston Public Radio and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.