Dewey Crumpler is an influential black muralist whose work is largely situated in San Francisco. In 1977, after finishing a series of murals at the George Washington High School in San Francisco, the muralist embarked upon two major projects titled The Fire Next Time I and The Fire Next Time II.
For the first mural, Crumpler focused on the relationship between African and African American culture. Located at the Joseph Lee Recreation Center in Hunter’s Point-Bayview, the Fire Next Time I deals with education, culture and religion for African Americans. It moves back and forth between the figures of a teacher and a student, Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson, and two mythical beings in African folk-lore – the Senufo birds.
When Crumpler was painting the mural on Oakdale Avenue and Mendell Street in 1977, a local resident approached him and asked about the figures. Upon hearing about Tubman and Robseon, the resident responded: “They don’t live here, man. You should put up a couple of locals like Richard and Edwina. They’re a stone couple.” But a few weeks later, the resident returned and told Crumpler he was right: “black people needed to know more about important leaders so they could have somebody to respect, and besides, Richard and Edwina had broken up.”
The mural also faced backlash from a local church group, because of the nude figures at the midpoint.