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Presented By: History of Art

Detroit's Black Power Murals as Public Art

Rebecca Zurier, Associate Professor in History of Art

Detroit skyline Detroit skyline
Detroit skyline
The Art Gallery, School of Art and Design at Eastern Michigan University is pleased to announce a lecture titled "Detroit's Black Power Murals as Public Art," by Rebecca Zurier, Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Michigan, The lecture will take place on Tuesday, October 12 from 6-7 pm in EMU’s Halle Library Auditorium. The lecture is held in conjunction with the exhibition Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement at the EMU Art Gallery from Monday, September 13 through Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Halle Library is located at 955 W Circle Dr, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

Inspiring in their time but not well-enough known today, Detroit’s Black Power murals—painted a year after, and in response to the urban uprising of 1967-- were some of the first to move the artistic ideals of the Black Arts movement into public space. Created by Chicago artists with the cooperation of Detroit painters and poets, they combined portraits of contemporary African-American “he-roes and she-roes” with historical scenes and the images of leaders of African anti-colonial movements, juxtaposed with everyman figures that spoke to viewers in the present at street level.

This talk explores the way the murals functioned amidst Detroit’s racial geography in two ways: as an effort to enlist the nationalist ideas of the Black Arts movement in fostering creative identity and pride through images of African-American achievement and to generate spatially a “Black counterpublic sphere.” Their iconography offered an alternative or counter- history that encouraged Black Detroiters to imagine their place in a new version of the city.

Dr. Zurier’s teaching and research focus on the Art of the United States with special interests in urban studies, political art and questions of realism and representation. Her book Picturing the City: Urban Vision and the Ashcan School won the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Charles Eldredge Prize. At the University of Michigan, Dr. Zurier teaches a seminar titled "Made in Detroit: A History of Art and Culture in the Motor City."

This lecture part of the Detroit theme year, organized by EMU’s College of Arts and Sciences. For more information and list of events, go to

For more information, contact curator Julia R. Myers, or Greg Tom, University Art Gallery Director at
Detroit skyline Detroit skyline
Detroit skyline

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