A History of Walls: The Borders We Build
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Wall Totem

A small group of 4 people standing next to the Berlin wall. Two of these people are lifting babies above their head to show family members on the opposite side.
Figure 1: West Berliners lift their children to show them to family members on the other side of the Berlin Wall, September 1961. When the border between East and West Berlin was closed, many families were torn apart. By the Central Intelligence Agency - West Berliners, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Family standing next to a large metal wall to talk to speak to family on the opposite side.
Figure 2: People gather at the Playas de Tijuana to interact with their families and friends on the United States side of the border, January 2017. Chairs sit empty, ready to ease muscles tired from standing during long conversations. shakzu / iStock
Four children posing in front of a wall.
Figure 3: Children pose in front of the Eight Mile Wall in the Wyoming neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan, August 1941. Built that year to segregate a black neighborhood from a white subdivision in a federally supported act known as “redlining,” the wall still stands today. In 2006, community activists painted murals on parts of the wall that celebrate African-American culture and commemorate the long, continuing struggle for civil rights. John Vaschon, 1914-1975; Library of Congress 2017813184
A view of Earth from the International Space Station. THe border of Pakistan and India is illuminated.
Figure 4: The “line of control,” as seen from the International Space Station, separating Pakistan (left) and India. Floodlights illuminate the border between the two nuclear-armed nations. The Himalayas, one of the most imposing natural borders in the world, loom in the top right of the picture. Image courtesy of NASA / ISS045-E-27869, image taken on September 23, 2015
Two White-naped Cranes in flight.
Figure 5: White-naped cranes (pictured) are among the endangered and threatened species that have found sanctuary in the 155-mile wide Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, one of the world’s most fraught and tightly guarded borders. Tae-young / iStock
Two White-naped Cranes in flight.
Figure 6: Soldiers sit atop a section of the 1,700-mile Moroccan Western Sahara Wall, also known as “the Berm.” The six- foot-high sand-and-rock wall was built between 1981-1987 by Morocco after its annexation of the area. The wall was meant to keep Sahwarian refugees and fighters from the nationalist Polisario Front out of the country. The Berm is thought to include one of the world’s longest continuous minefields. By Michele Benericetti - Flickr, CC BY 2.0