One of Chicago’s iconic pieces of public art is Alison Saar’s 1996 salutation, expressed literally and figuratively, to the Great Northern Migration of African Americans. This bronze sculpture portrays the walk-weary traveler as born and clothed in the heavily worn, holed soles of the many who walked the walk before him. A remarkably imaginative piece that Saar created as a key Chicago element in her illustrious life as one of our truly great artists and visionaries.
Ironically, the sculpture stands in the middle of the boulevard in front of the McDonald’s that was owned and operated by Cirilo McSween, who stood equally tall in the African American community and whose legacy includes his close collaborative friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr and active membership in the Southern Leadership Conference. McSween believed strongly in realizing success through coordinated social and business goals, and he rose to be one of the most influential McDonald’s franchisees. There is no shortage of irony in the confluence of Saar’s work, McSween’s McDonald’s, and the base of Martin Luther King Drive at this area that forms the southernmost access to the giant McCormick Place.