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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2019, Artists and American Communities, Then: Part 4, Chicago and Archibald Motley’s Black Belt

Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University, and Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. Archibald Motley’s painting Black Belt (1934) managed to do more than simply capture the ambience and tempo of Bronzeville, a predominantly African American neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Black Belt also made Bronzeville’s performative and transactional nature palpable, especially in the years of the Great Depression and in response to the mass migration of black Americans from the rural south to the urban north. Richard Powell’s talk, given as part of the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, “American Communities, Then and Now,” held on February 8, 2019, recognizes Motley’s place in the history of African Americans describing their lives and communities in art.