Walls of Prophecy and Protest

Trade Paper – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4058-5
Publication Date
August 2019
Page Count
424 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Walls of Prophecy and Protest

William Walker and the Roots of a Revolutionary Public Art Movement
Jeff W. Huebner

Chicago is home to more intact African American street murals from the 1970s and ’80s than any other U.S. city. Among Chicago’s greatest muralists is the legendary William “Bill” Walker (1927–2011), compared by art historians to Diego Rivera and called the most accomplished contemporary practitioner of the classical mural tradition.

Though his art could not have been more public, Walker maintained a low profile during his working life and virtually withdrew from the public eye after his retirement in 1989. Author Jeff W. Huebner met Walker in 1990 and embarked on a series of insightful interviews that stretched over the next two decades. Those meetings and years of research form the basis of Walls of Prophecy and Protest, the story of Walker’s remarkable life and the movement that he inspired.

Featuring forty-three color images of Walker’s work, most long since destroyed or painted over, this handsome edition reveals the artist who was the primary figure behind Chicago’s famed Wall of Respect and who created numerous murals that depicted African American historical figures, protested social injustice, and promoted love, respect, racial unity, and community change.
About the Author

Jeff W. Huebner is an arts journalist, freelance writer, and longtime contributor to the Chicago Reader and Public Art Review. His articles and reviews have also appeared in ARTnews, Sculpture, Chicago magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. He is the author of Murals: The Great Walls of Joliet and the coauthor of Urban Art Chicago: A Guide to Community Murals, Mosaics, and Sculptures and Chicago Parks Rediscovered. Huebner has received many arts writing grants and awards. In 2017, he was an inaugural recipient of the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation award for arts criticism and journalism.

“Without a doubt this book is the most important work written on William Walker. It illuminates how living and caring on the South Side of Chicago shaped Walker and how deep his national impact on mural making as a social practice was in the second half of the twentieth century.” —Kymberly N. Pinder, author of Painting the Gospel: Black Public Art and Religion in Chicago

"Jeff W. Huebner’s meticulously researched, clearly written book, Walls of Prophecy and Protest: William Walker and the Roots of a Revolutionary Public Art Movement . . . elucidates Walker’s life and the historical, political and social environment on the South Side of Chicago where many of his murals were painted. Huebner parses the murals, most no long extant, and narrates the building of community among collaborating artists and in the streets as Walker painted . . . Huebner has a journalist’s gift for narrative, and while he hits all of the important art historical points, compelling stories give his account a sense of human drama . . ." —Janina Ciezadlo, New Art Examiner

"Jeff W. Huebner’s important, well-researched and affectionate Walls of Prophecy & Protest: William Walker & the Roots of a Revolutionary Public Art Movement goes a long way toward making sure that Walker and the origins of the community mural trend don’t get lost in the fog of the past." —Patrick T. Reardon, Third Coast Review

"Huebner’s Walls of Prophecy and Protest preserves a moment in time since eroded by financial pressures and systemic racism . . . Scholars interested in African American history and culture, public art, social protest movements, or memory will find this an engrossing, albeit often tragic, read." —K. B. Hannel, Saint Leo University in CHOICE