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Archibald J. Motley Jr., Black Belt, 1934

From Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist

Oct 2, 2015


Archibald J. Motley Jr., Black Belt, 1934


DAVARIAN BALDWIN: You see Motley's wonderful cinematic play with spotlight effects, and exaggerated features, and kind of a panoramic view, so here we have not just buildings, or amusement, or sidewalks, but kind of a showcasing of black expressive behavior.

NARRATOR: Davarian Baldwin, the Paul E. Raether Professor of American Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, discusses the painting Black Belt.

DAVARIAN BALDWIN: At the upper‑right‑hand corner, you see the two gentlemen walking in unison as they cross a picture window of the Drop Inn, so there's a certain kind of invitation, and then to the right of that you see kind of a woman looking out of a window. You're not sure if it's a single room occupancy home or if it is a brothel, but of course, it's suggesting it might be a brothel with the word "hot" right above the window. Motley is really good with this kind of diversity of black experience. It captures an actual place, what African American Chicago called The Stroll, which is Black Chicago's commercial and amusement district.

NARRATOR: To hear more about Motley’s Chicago, please tap the button.