Laini (Sylvia) Abernathy

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Laini (Sylvia) Abernathy
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EducationIllinois Institute of Technology
OccupationAmerican artist and activist

Laini (Sylvia) Abernathy was an American artist and activist. She studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology, located in the South Side of Chicago.[1] As a young artist, Abernathy was commissioned by Delmark Records to design album covers for jazz records, producing at least four album covers in the late 1960s.[2] She designed the cover for saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell's first album Sound in 1966. She was an important figure in Chicago’s Black Arts Movement, often working in collaboration with her husband, the photographer Fundi (Billy) Abernathy.[3] In 1967, she joined the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and designed the layout of the Wall of Respect, a street mural that featured African American leaders.[4] Abernathy's design featured sections that were each designed to be filled by an artist or group of artists.[5] After changing her name to Laini, she designed the 1970 experimental photobook “In Our Terribleness (Some Elements and Meaning in Black Style)” featuring poetry by Amiri Baraka and images by Fundi.[6]


  1. Nishikawa, Kinohi (June 2019). "Reframing Blackness: The Installation Aesthetic of In Our Terribleness". Chicago Review. University of Chicago. 62 (4).
  2. "From the Collection: Laini (Sylvia Abernathy)". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  3. "Confrontation in Chicago". Negro Digest: 74–78. July 1968 – via Google Books.
  4. Crawford, Margo Nathalie (2006). "Black Light on the Wall of Respect: The Chicago Black Arts Movement". New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 24.
  5. Zorach, Rebecca (2019). "Claiming Space, Being Public". Art for People's Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965–1975. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. 59.
  6. "Books Received". Black World Digest. 21 (3): 97. January 1972 – via Google Books.

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