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A freelance photojournalist in Chicago in the 1960 and ’70s and a respected participant in the Black Arts Movement, Bob Crawford sought to reveal the ways in which Black Aesthetics—an exploration of African heritage and celebration of black identity and beauty—permeated all aspects of daily life in his community.
In 1967, Crawford extensively documented the creation of the Wall of Respect by 21 members of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), a collective of black artists, writers, intellectuals, and activists on Chicago’s South Side. The outdoor mural, located at 43rd and Langley, featured black heroes and heroines. While not a member of OBAC, Crawford worked in dialogue with its members and, in his documentation of the Wall, was particularly involved in the gatherings, performances, and political events that regularly took place in front of it until its destruction in 1971. More than just reportage, Crawford’s photographs underscore the importance of the Wall of Respect as a site of cultural activity and a touchstone for artists in the decades that followed.
Later in life, Crawford traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to attend the African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77) as part of the delegation of American artists invited to attend. Throughout his life and work, Crawford emphasized the importance of community and collaboration for the creation of a powerful African American diasporic consciousness in the 1960s and ’70s.