KMJQ Featured Video

A painter, muralist and sculptor, John Thomas Biggers gave hope and a future to Houston‘s art students.

After moving to Houston in 1949, Biggers established the first art department at Texas Southern University (then Texas State University for Negroes).

Working in a time of racial segregation, Biggers encouraged students to use their African-American heritage for inspiration. He mined his own childhood memories of his widowed mother’s hard labor to create a legacy of artwork depicting the black woman as strong, persevering and courageous.

Many of his murals are on display throughout Houston. TSU boasts more than 100 murals created by Biggers’ students, making it one of the most visually engaging campuses in the U.S.

Biggers was among the first African-American artists to visit Africa in the late 1950s. Since his trips coincided with the civil rights movement, his African artwork is said to have fueled black Americans with a love for their culture and heritage. Born in 1924, he died in 2001, but his artwork continues to inspire.