Framing Graffiti

From the beginning, hip hop challenged the dominant frames used to define people and communities.


  • Austin, “A Tale of Two Cities” (9-37)
    [PDF available in GA View]

Reading Guide

Writing”  is Austin’s shorthand for graffiti writing. For example, he writes that “Writing was called to play a particularly important role in the public melodrama of the fall of New York CIty in the mid-1960s and its resurrection int he 1980s”  (14).

Austin refers twice in this chapter to the Freedom Train paintings in 1976 (25).  The Freedom Train was an entire subway car that graffiti writers painted to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Subway officials scrubbed the car immediately, and the public never saw it. Austin refers to it here because it was the primary example in his preceding chapter.

Both the  chapter title “A Tale of Two Cities” and the subheadings are carefully chosen. Make sure that you understand the subject and major points made in each section, which the subheadings summarize. The subheadings are

  • Renewing the New Rome of the Twentieth Century
  • The Failures of Renewal: Reruns of the Naked City
  • Urban Youth and the Subways: As Rome Falls
  • Fear, Crime, and the Subways
  • Conclusion: Ready for War


  • Framing Graffiti