Art Institute of Chicago Celebrates the 1960s ‘Wall of Respect’ Mural

By Qimmah Saafir Apr 17, 2015

The Art Institute of Chicago is commemorating the historic "Wall of Respect" mural on Chicago’s South Side with a host of events this weekend. The mural was created in the late 1960s by politically involved black artists — Norman Parish Jr., along with others such as photographer Roy Lewis and artists Wadsworth Jarrell and Jeff Donaldson–to celebrate black achievement. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the building it was displayed on in 1971.

Before 1967, murals were generally sponsor-funded and displayed indoors. But the artists, associated with the Organization of Black American Culture’s Visual Arts Workshop, paid for and created the depiction of 34 black historic figures themselves on a grocery and liquor store in the impoverished Bronzeville neighborhood.Among those featured were Malcolm X, Cicely Tyson, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali and Marcus Garvey.

Edmund Barry Gaither, director at Boston’s Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists stated of the mural: "It gave us a roadmap. We followed in Boston."

Norman Parish III thinks that the recognition of his father and the mural itself is monumental.

The fact that the Art Institute of Chicago is remembering these artists and their work is a big deal. Even some of the event’s organizers can’t remember the last time, if ever, the prestigious institute toasted a large group of black artists at the same time.

Norman Parish Jr. owned Parish Gallery in Georgetown for two decades and passed away in 2013. His son speaks about the history of the mural, his father’s life and his full take on the commemoration here.