Fayetteville to celebrate completion of mural along Nelson Hackett Boulevard

Local artist Joëlle Storet works to paint a mural along the retaining wall on Nelson Hackett Boulevard in Fayetteville on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

FAYETTEVILLE — The city will celebrate the completion of a new mural along Nelson Hackett Boulevard at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, June 17. The event will be held at the Yvonne Richardson Community Center garden, located at 174 S. Washington Ave.

The celebration will feature remarks from Mayor Lioneld Jordan and a talk with the mural’s artist, Joëlle Storet, who will provide insights into the creative process behind the artwork titled “Remembrance.” Storet’s design, which began last month, covers a 90-foot section of the retaining wall on the west side of the street. It includes a depiction of what Nelson Hackett may have looked like, along with several other former Fayetteville residents and landmarks of historical significance.

After the remarks, attendees will be invited to walk to Nelson Hackett Boulevard to view the mural up close. The 0.2-mile walk will utilize the pedestrian improvements completed last year at the Rock Street intersection. Attendees are encouraged to use nearby on-street parking or the parking available at the center.

Storet’s mural was selected by the Fayetteville Arts Council in collaboration with members of the city’s Historic District Commission and Black Historic Preservation Commission. The mural is part of a larger project to decorate the road’s 500-foot-long retaining wall with murals over the next five years, reflecting themes of movement, justice, and connectivity. The city commissioned $24,000 to cover artist fees and materials.

The mural honors Nelson Hackett, an enslaved man who fled Fayetteville in 1841 in search of freedom. His attempted escape set off an international dispute that eventually helped ensure Canada would remain a safe haven for people who were fleeing enslavement in the United States.

After fleeing Fayetteville, Hackett traveled to Canada, which had recently abolished slavery and was under British rule at the time. Instead of finding freedom, Hackett was accused of theft by a man who claimed to own him in Fayetteville. While abolitionists called on Canada to give Hackett his freedom, supporters of slavery insisted that he be returned to the United States. Eventually, Arkansas Gov. Archibald Yell formally requested that Hackett be returned to Fayetteville, and when that request was granted, Hackett was publicly whipped, tortured and sold back into slavery in Texas.

The British government eventually passed laws that made similar extraditions much more difficult in an effort to prevent setting a precedent that encouraged slave owners to make accusations of offenses in order to reclaim enslaved people.

Nelson Hackett mural design (Joëlle Storet/City of Fayetteville)

The city in 2022 renamed the street from Archibald Yell Boulevard to Nelson Hackett Boulevard, and began a redesign of the road to slow traffic and improve connectivity from one side of the street to the other.

Some of the other people and landmarks included in Storet’s design include Dorothy Barker-Wilks, Lafayette Barker, Teresa Gray, along with Yell’s Waxhaws home and the Washington County Courthouse building.

» Click to enlarge (Joëlle Storet/City of Fayetteville)