As news photographers and camera crews huddle around them, “Respect” director Liesl Tommy and actress Jennifer Hudson place their hands inside Aretha Franklin’s handprints as the prints are unveiled Aug. 1 at the Detroit Historical Museum. Hudson plays Franklin in “Respect,” a new film about the legendary musician.

As news photographers and camera crews huddle around them, “Respect” director Liesl Tommy and actress Jennifer Hudson place their hands inside Aretha Franklin’s handprints as the prints are unveiled Aug. 1 at the Detroit Historical Museum. Hudson plays Franklin in “Respect,” a new film about the legendary musician.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


Aretha Franklin’s legacy shines brightly in new exhibition

By: K. Michelle Moran | Metro | Published August 6, 2021

 Costumes from the film “Respect” and actual clothing and accessories worn by Aretha Franklin are included in a new exhibition at the Detroit Historical Museum that is on display until the end of August.

Costumes from the film “Respect” and actual clothing and accessories worn by Aretha Franklin are included in a new exhibition at the Detroit Historical Museum that is on display until the end of August.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

 A pop-up exhibition about Aretha Franklin that coincides with the release of a new film about her is now on display at the Detroit Historical Museum.

A pop-up exhibition about Aretha Franklin that coincides with the release of a new film about her is now on display at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

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DETROIT — The Detroit Historical Museum is paying homage to the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Until the end of August, visitors will be able to see sparkling costumes and accessories used in the new movie, “Respect” — which stars Jennifer Hudson playing Franklin in the early part of her ascension to fame and acclaim — alongside some of Franklin’s actual gowns and accessories.

On Aug. 1, members of Franklin’s family were joined by Hudson and “Respect” director Liesl Tommy for the unveiling of Franklin’s signed handprints in concrete outside the museum, where they join the handprints of other local luminaries as part of Legends Plaza.

“Legends Plaza stands as a testament to the worldwide contributions of Detroiters,” Detroit Historical Society President and CEO Elana Rugh said in a prepared statement. “We are proud that Ms. Franklin chose to add to her legacy with a permanent display on our plaza at the Detroit Historical Museum, and we couldn’t imagine a more appropriate space for her handprints to be accessible to her fans from Detroit and across the globe.”

Franklin cast her handprints on June 7, 2017, while she was at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit, where a street was renamed Aretha Franklin Way in her honor. Franklin died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16, 2018, at the age of 76.

“We know how much Aretha Franklin means to our community,” said Rebecca Salminen Witt, chief strategy and marketing officer for the Detroit Historical Society, which operates the Detroit Historical Museum. Although Franklin’s handprints had been shown briefly during a special 2018 Detroit Historical Museum tribute exhibition after her death, Witt said they had been waiting for a special moment to add them to Legends Plaza.

Franklin, a singer, songwriter and pianist, began performing gospel music as a child at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was a minister. Her remarkable voice propelled her to superstardom and decades of hits, including “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Freeway of Love” and, of course, “Respect.” She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earned countless awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts. She was also an activist for women’s rights and civil rights.

Kecalf Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s youngest son, said the movie “Respect” demonstrates his mother’s fight for the respect she deserved and “that people deserve respect, and respect isn’t just something that’s given.”

Tracy Irwin, the chief exhibitions and enrichment officer at the Detroit Historical Museum, said they were excited about being able to show some of the costumes and items from the film alongside genuine garments and accessories in the museum’s collection that Franklin wore.

“We’re thrilled that United Artists and MGM loaned them to us,” Irwin said of the costume pieces.

The opening of “Respect” is especially exciting for metro Detroiters, because Franklin was a proud Detroiter and a beloved hometown icon.

“Aretha Franklin — everybody loves her,” Irwin said. “She’s really the heart of Detroit.”

At press time, the movie “Respect” was slated to open in theaters nationwide Aug. 13.

The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Ave. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit detroithistorical.org or call (313) 833-1805.

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