Built as a flood break in 1956 to deflect the torrential rains that occasionally poured down the nearby San Gabriel Mountains in those days to cover the campus with mud and debris, Walker Wall is a a five-foot cinder-block wall that curves for more than 200 feet between the northern edge of the North Campus lawn known as Walker Beach and the sidewalk along College Way. Facing the Walker and Clark residence halls, it is clearly visible to students entering Frary Dining Hall, where at least half of Pomona's students eat each day.
The Wall remained unadorned until the spring of 1975, when several students painted "Free Angela" on its inner surface, referring to the imprisonment of Black Panther and Communist Party activist Angela Davis after her conviction on murder conspiracy charges. After some debate, college administrators decided not to paint out the slogan, and over the next year or two, students gradually painted other political statements and art on the Wall, establishing it as a highly visible forum for free public expression.
Since then, each succeeding generation of Pomona students has taken charge of the Wall, turning it into a lively, freewheeling public forum, a place where ideas are presented openly and artistic expressions are offered for public viewing. Today, students continue to use it as an ever-changing canvas, painting over old messages with birthday greetings, event announcements, humorous reflections, whimsical musings, and serious comments on issues of the day.
For more than 30 years, students have shared messages that range from the trivial and personal to the political and universal—from the shock and sadness in the days following 9/11 to the joyous messages following the 2008 Presidential election. Though the messages may be transient--surviving only as long as it takes for another student to become inspired--Walker Wall has become a permanent symbol of free speech on campus.