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

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$35.00  $32.55
Northwestern University Press
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7.0 X 9.9 X 0.7 inches | 2.25 pounds

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About the Author

ABDUL ALKALIMAT is an activist and the founding chairperson of the Organization of Black American Culture, which led the creation of the Wall of Respect in 1967. He is an emeritus professor of the School of Information Sciences and the Department of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

ROMI CRAWFORD is an associate professor in the Department of Visual and Critical Studies and in the Department of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

REBECCA ZORACH is the Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art and Art History at Northwestern University.


"The Wall of Respect, beautifully designed and abundantly illustrated, is a book long overdue for an often overlooked milestone in American art and culture." --The Chicago Tribune

"The Wall of Respect is, hands down, the most recognizable urban mural in the United States. It is a revolutionary work of collaboration created in revolutionary times. It is a memorial that has been memorialized in poetry and song and photography. It tells an incredible history of Black creativity and struggles for freedom, dignity, and power. Yet, its own history has never been told. That is, until now. An extraordinary work of reconstruction and illumination, The Wall of Respect is one of those rare books that reveal the deep links between art and politics, movement and imagination, community and creativity. And rest assured, this book will not gather dust on the coffee table." --Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago makes a valuable contribution to discourse about this important mural, the Black Arts Movement, the history of Chicago, and broader histories of civic engagement. Unlike earlier, brief histories of the Wall that were incomplete or lacked deep historical awareness of OBAC, this book offers the most comprehensive history of this specific period in OBAC's influential life and their role in the creation of the Wall. I have no doubt that this book will have a significant impact on future scholarship in the areas of black aesthetics, community engagement and art, and the history and sociology of Chicago's south side." --Greg Foster-Rice, co-editor (with Katherine Bussard and Alison Fisher) of The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960--1980
"Finally, The Wall of Respect gets the comprehensive attention it deserves! With this volume, Alkalimat, Crawford and Zorach have made a tremendous contribution to both Art History and African-American Studies. Like OBAC's creative mural, this book is a beautiful example of interdisciplinary collaboration. By combining original essays with photographs and archival documents, it sets an impressive benchmark for the study of public art in social movements. The editors have breathed new life into the poetic words of Gwendolyn Brooks, ensuring that, 'All worship the Wall.'"
--Jonathan Fenderson, Assistant Professor of African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and Associate Editor of The Black Scholar

"Long overdue, The Wall of Respect is a major work that chronicles a time that transformed the concept of public art and mural art in America. Original and remarkable, this book illuminates the love of art and history expressed by black families, community leaders, activists, and artists-collectives, and builds upon the research of some of the early art activists that shaped the Black Arts Movement. A compelling and critical story." --Deborah Willis, author of Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers

The Wall of Respect only lasted four years: after damage from a mysterious fire, the building it covered was razed by the city. But a new book, The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago... has collected the documents, reminiscences, photographs, and commentary that make its historical significance clear." --Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader
"This book recovers The Wall of Respect, a pivotal piece of public art conceived by Chicago artists and neighbors that effectively spurred a new mural movement nationwide in the 1960s. Detailed analysis and personal recollections of this incredible object and its milieu provide nothing less than a new and expansive framework for understanding the impact of this vital work. A dazzling collection of primary documents--poetry, letters, articles, and photographs--are at the book's core. The significance of photography, as part of The Wall itself and as indispensable documentation, sheds light not only on the role of photography in shaping our understanding of this public project and its context, but illuminates the influence of Chicago's photographers and other artists in the postwar era." --Kellie Jones, Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

"This handsome narrative celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wall of Respect, a multipaneled outdoor mural created for a series of adjacent buildings on Chicago's South Side. Recommended." --CHOICE

"As a collection, The Wall of Respect offers interested parties a trove of original documents, photographs, poems, interviews, and articles, richly contextualized by essays by Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford, and Rebecca Zorach. Though the essays are vital to this project, its true power lies in materials that sprung forth during the wall's short lifespan. Through these materials, readers will intuitively grasp the bombshell impact the work had on those who encountered it in its physical form... a visceral spark still permeates the contemporaneous creative production that surrounded the wall, lending the entire book an energy that cuts across time and reminds us of a radical artistic legacy worth revitalizing. For those already familiar with the import of the Wall of Respect, the most significant aspect of the book is its emphasis on photography and its purposeful use on and around the wall... Romi Crawford... makes a compelling case that 'photography is just as vital as painting to the Wall of Respect.' The photographs document not only the rapid changes of the wall, but also the vibrant street life that emerged during its creation, including musical performances, poetry readings, and a social framework that drew in countless curious onlookers." --Tanner Howard, Chicago Review