The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago

Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford, and Rebecca Zorach. Northwestern Univ, $35 trade paper (346p) ISBN 978-0-8101-3593-2
In 1967, 14 artists from the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) created a mural on an abandoned building at the intersection of 43rd Street and Langley Avenue in Chicago’s South Side. Known as “the Wall of Respect,” the mural featured black pioneers in American culture, including Muhammad Ali, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, and W.E.B. DuBois, among others. Here, OBAC founding member Abdul Alkalimat (née Gerald McWorter), with art historians Crawford and Zorach, provides a long-overdue illustrated history of the mural, featuring essays by the editors and rare photographs and other archival material. “[The mural] was a great declaration of black unity based on a collective process of self-determination,” Alkalimat writes in the introduction. “Many of us became a posse, a band of brothers and sisters, who shared an awakening of cultural identity.” The authors trace the history of the mural from its conception and planning, noting how the artists drew inspiration from the burgeoning black power movement as well as the murals of Mexican artist Diego Rivera and local artist Charles White, through to its demise in 1971 due to damage from a fire. In the years between, the site developed into a hot spot for local musicians, poets, and activists, and it was the source of conflicts over community control of the work. Combining African-American history, Chicago history, and art analysis, the book provides a fascinating case study of the impact of public art on social movements. Color illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-8101-3594-9
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