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To accompany the mural, Grad Gen developed a curriculum about Jones’ life and career

by Adrienne S. Harris, Contributing Writer, Campus Life

Ed. note: This story and the associated sidebar story were developed by Campus Life and published as one story earlier this month in Emory's Dooley Report.

Most of the students who attend M. Agnes Jones Elementary School were not aware that their school’s namesake was a pioneer in Atlanta public education.

That changed September 27 when a mural of Mary Agnes Boswell Jones, the first African American superintendent in the Atlanta Public School System and first woman president of the Georgia Teachers and Education Association, was unveiled at the elementary school.

Agnes Jones mural
Photo by Adrienne S. Harris.

The 8-by-8-foot panel, an art project commissioned by Graduation Generation, a program of Emory’s Center for Civic and Community Engagement, depicts Jones wearing a royal blue coat, matching cloche hat, and eyeglasses.

A work of art and more

To accompany the mural, which will hang above the entrance to the school’s auditorium, Graduation Generation developed a curriculum about Jones’ life and career that includes her biography, along with a quiz, writing exercise, mathematics problem, word puzzles, and coloring sheets.

“I hope this project will help students at M. Agnes Jones understand the importance of education and take pride in their school,” said Barbara S. Coble, education partnerships manager for Graduation Generation, a program whose goal is to help increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates for Atlanta public school students.

“The place they come to every day to learn and lay the foundation for their futures is named after a woman who was a champion for education,” said Coble. “She made a difference and her legacy is continuing.”

To honor Jones’ legacy, Coble collaborated with Emory colleagues and community partners who share her vision for civic engagement.

“This project supports our goal to bring Atlanta and Emory closer together by bringing art into the community,” said Candy Tate, assistant director of the Center for Creativity and Arts.

Tate recruited local artist Charmaine Minniefield, whose murals are featured throughout Atlanta, to design the artwork for M. Agnes Jones. One of Tate’s Integrated Visual Arts Co-Major (IVAC) students, Purvi Bidasaria 19C, helped paint the mural’s background and is credited as an artist on the project.

An Emory collaboration

Volunteers from Emory’s Center for Women also helped with the mural painting.

“We had a blast,” said Chanel Tanner, director of the Center for Women “At the CWE, we really try to center the experiences of women of color and we wholeheartedly believe in the value of celebrating the accomplishments of women, past and present.”

Celebrating women – and inspiring young people to achieve their own greatness – is what the artist hoped to achieve through her mural of Jones.

“I create monuments to freedom that lift our ancestors, celebrate our identity, and encourage the next generation to invest in our communities,” said Minniefield, a self-described activist-artist. “I want my art to be examples of the potential we can achieve in our present time.”

Aisha Mahmood 2018 C, who was a graduate student assistant for Graduation Generation, helped research and write the curriculum about Jones.

“When students learn about people like Mary Agnes Jones, it opens a possibility for their future,” said Mahmood, now a second-year health and policy management student in the Rollins School of Public Health.

“Maybe not in elementary school, but by the time they get to middle school and high school, because they have been inspired by what others did, students will find something they’re passionate about and want to do.”

Margul Retha Woolfolk, principal at M. Agnes Jones, one of only five elementary schools in Georgia that is both STEM and STEAM certified, says the mural and curriculum will have a positive impact on students’ social emotional learning.

“This collaborative project with Emory supports the school’s mission and vision by helping the scholars, faculty, and staff understand the historical impact Mary Agnes Jones had on the community and the city as a whole,” said Woolfolk.

“She was very innovative and continued to reach for greatness, which aligns perfectly to our school priorities.”

For more information on Graduation Generation, visit: