I haven’t met Elon alumna Letitia Lee, but I am a huge fan of her work. Over the last few years, I’ve purchased twelve of her prints and one poster at Night of the Phoenix auctions. The poster reproduces Roots of Greatness, a painting on display in the Global Commons building on Elon’s campus. Here’s a photo I took of the painting:


The painting has 175 names embedded in the roots and 175 more embedded in the branches. I see the poster version every day in my home, and I’m always struck by how few of the names I recognize. Sure, I know who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is and Nat King Cole and Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. But I recognize that I have much to learn about this painting and the people and histories it represents.

Therefore I’ve challenged myself to learn more about the people in the painting, one name at a time, starting with the roots, since I recognize fewer of those names than the branches. I’ll be sharing what I learn here on my blog and on Twitter (@jessielmoore) with the hashtag #RootsOfGreatness.

When a name leads me to learn about two (or more) people who share the same name, I’ll post about both. I’m working only from the names, so I recognize that some of my research might lead me down a different path than the artist intended. If you’re familiar with one of the people I post about and know good sources for learning more about their lives, please post that information in the comments. Thank you!

If you like the painting, visit Letitia Lee’s website to learn more about her and her art. At Elon, she earned degrees in both Broadcast Communications and Fine Arts.


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