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

Publications

  • Northwestern University Press

September 2017

The Wall of Respect chronicles how the Organization of Black American Culture—a collection of fourteen designers, photographers, painters, and more—designed and produced a mural for and within Chicago’s Black South Side communities. The Wall of Respect received national critical acclaim when it was unveiled in 1967 on the side of a building at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. Local and world-famous artists including Sylvia Abernathy and Jeff Donaldson were commissioned to helm the mural’s seven themed sections, which showcased the portraits of such varied figures as Muddy Waters and W. E. B. Du Bois. Despite the collaborative conditions of its emergence, however, The Wall became a mirror of the turbulent internal and external politics of the Black Liberation Movement. To be sure, while The Wall was collectively and amicably developed in summer 1967, by October of that year, Eugene “Eda” Wade painted over Norman Parish’s “Statesmen” section—replacing Malcolm X with Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown—initiating a series of artist revisions and breakdowns in communication that ultimately led to the whole Wall being painted over and virtually forgotten after damage by a fire in 1971. 

The Wall of Respect is co-authored by Abdul Alkalimat, Professor Emeritus in African American Studies and Library & Information Science at the University of Illinois; Romi Crawford, Associate Professor in Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Rebecca Zorach, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern University.