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In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.: Murals that conjure the great man, the enduring dream [Photo essay]

January 14, 2011 |  8:13 pm

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Avalon Auto Repair, E. Colden Ave. at S. Avalon Bl, Los Angeles, 2005

Painted on the side wall of the neighborhood auto shop or the corner mom-and-pop store, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s image proclaims his place in the American pantheon. In some neighborhoods, he looks as if he might have had a Latin ancestor, and he makes common cause with the Virgin of Guadalupe and Pancho Villa. In other neighborhoods, he's accompanied by a stern Malcolm X or the pyramids of Egypt. Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara has been documenting such murals in Los Angeles and other American cities since well before the United States declared a holiday in King's name. Talisman, memorial and declaration of principles, the murals conjure the great man, the enduring dream -- and the power of the billboard.

--Photographs by Camilo Jose Vergara

Camilo Jose Vergara is a 2002 MacArthur fellow whose books include "American Ruins" and "How the Other Half Worships." camilojosev@gmail.com

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Las Palmas Discount Market, 5600 Broadway, Los Angeles, 2010

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Seafood restaurant, S. Normandie Ave at W. 47th St. Los Angeles, 1997

More murals after the jump» 

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E. 76th Place at S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, 2009

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Lupita's Discount Store, E. 55th St. at Compton Ave., Los Angeles, 2006

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Private House, E. Palmer St. at N. Bullis Rd., Compton, 1998

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Alley west of S. Avalon Blvd., near E. Colden Ave., Los Angeles, 1998

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Ocean Tires #2, E. Colden Ave. near S. Avalon Blvd., Los Angeles, 2010

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Paulina Variety Store, Compton Ave. near E. Vernon Ave., Los Angeles, 1997

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