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Soul pole anniversary celebration

Photo courtesy City of Seattle

Soul Pole celebration at SPL Douglass-Truth Branch

Event to highlight the pole's history and role in Central District

Soul Pole, the tall wooden work of art stands tall outside the Seattle Public Library’s Douglass-Truth Branch, has greeted library visitors and played a crucial role in the Central District’s African American community for nearly half a century – with only a one-year gap in 2021 when it was removed from its perch for restoration. 

This week the library and the Black Heritage Society of Washington State invites families in Central District neighborhoods to celebrate the pole’s 50th anniversary during a commemoration event Saturday, April 29 from 1-2:30 p.m. 

The “Preserving Neighborhood Character in the Central District: The Soul Pole at 50 Years” event will include a screening of Converge Media’s short film “The Legacy of the Soul Pole.” Short talks by community leaders and library staff will help flesh out the pole’s history and it’s role in the neighborhood and then the public will be invited to share stories and thoughts about the pole’s presence in and importance to the Central District.

soul pole 50th anniversary

Registration for the event is not required, but the library encourages families who plan to attend to sign up and let planners know you’ll be there.  

What is Soul Pole?

Soul Pole is a 21-foot community-created sculpture. The Black Heritage Society has called it “a symbol of tenacity, legacy, and pride that anchors the history of Black people to Seattle’s Central District.” 

According to the City of Seattle Art Beat Blog, the pole was carved in one month from a telephone pole during the summer of 1969, as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Model Cities Program. 

Carved by youth

Together, five teen artists Brenda Davis, Larry Gordon, Gregory Jackson, Cindy Jones, and Gaylord Young, all between the ages of 14 and 16 carved the piece led by Seattle Rotary Boys Club Art Director Raqib Mu’ied. According to the artists who made it, the artwork represents 400 years of African American history and injustice. After the Rotary Club gave the Soul Pole to the Library, it was installed on the lawn of the Douglass-Truth Branch on April 24, 1973

In 2021, the pole was de-installed and sent to Artech, Landrieu Conservation, and the Black Heritage Society for conservation. These collaborators also gathered stories about its origin before reinstalling the renovated artwork at its historic spot on the Douglass-Truth lawn in April 2022. Later that year, Historic Seattle awarded the Soul Pole its 2022 “Preserving Neighborhood Character” Award

Standing entry over an important historic collection

Along with greeting visitors to the library, Soul Pole acts as a sort of sentry over the Douglass-Truth Branch’s large collection of African American literature and history. The collection was established in 1965 through a donation by the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, a national service organization founded by African-American college women. More than 10,000 items are featured in the collection

During the Saturday commemoration, several leaders and community members will share the pole’s history as well as stories connected to the piece and its presence in the community. A reception and refreshments will follow the presentations.

For more information go to the event website.

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at