An Unbroken Thread - CODAworx

An Unbroken Thread

Submitted by Nancy O'Neil

Client: Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Library

Location: Tampa, FL, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $50,000

Project Team


Nancy O'Neil

Quaking Aspen Glass

Industry Resource

FGD, fabricator

FGD Glass Solutions


The Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library honors the community’s Civil Rights history. There are important exhibits on Saunders and his work, and on the Central Avenue neighborhood, which was destroyed during Urban Renewal. With a recording studio to capture oral histories, plus interactive displays, and a special collections resource center for Black history and genealogy, the library celebrates Civil Rights and the important work done by members of the Black community in the Tampa Bay area. Two windows, each 20’h x 75″w x .5″d. Tempered and laminated float glass, direct print pigment and interlayer film.


I wanted to create windows that would bring in color and light, while telling this important story. I did a great deal of research and met with many people. Doors figure largely in my design. I was thinking of how there were separate entrance doors for Black people and white people during Jim Crow. And about how libraries open doors into new worlds and ways of understanding our world and our place in it. I was also thinking about all of the Central Avenue area buildings that were destroyed, and the doorways of all those buildings.

I took photos of old doors, colored them in and then filled the open doorways with images from historic Central Avenue and the neighborhood. The doorways contain fragments of memories, leading us back into another time. The windows are colorful and full of information. At night they are a glowing beacon when viewed from outside. I also allowed the Library to reprint my designs as end panels for bookshelves in the history room.


I met with local citizens, talked with many others, and did research at various Special Collections. Long time residents took me on a tour of the former neighborhood. I immersed myself in old maps, newspapers, and artifacts from nearby archaeology digs. All of this informed my design.I learned about Robert W. Saunders, Sr., who became Florida’s NAACP field secretary after the murder of Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette, who were killed by a bomb at their home on Christmas day, 1951.Saunders continued with the NAACP and also served as Hillsborough County’s equal opportunity administrator.

Additional Information

This was an extraordinary project for me. It was a very moving experience.