Martin Luther King Jr. by Mural

Photographer Camilo José Vergara captures varying portrayals of the civil rights leader in urban areas across the United States

Camilo José Vergara began photographing art in poor urban areas in the 1970s. He soon realized that one of the most prevalent figures in the artworks was Martin Luther King Jr. (Camilo José Vergara)


Martin Luther King Jr murals
(Maura McCarthy)
William Walker, the artist who painted this mural on the South Side of Chicago, was one of the only trained artists Vergara came across in his search for murals of King. Walker is perhaps best known for his 1967 “Wall of Respect,” a community mural (since demolished) that depicted heroic figures from African American history. In his art, Walker draws inspiration from Mexican muralists such as José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera.

Initially, this work provoked controversy over its religious symbolism. Many felt that because King was not actually crucified, he should not be depicted on the cross. Others supported the comparison because King died for the cause of his people. This mural has since been painted over.


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