Pamphlets, Buttons and Posters at work for civil rights

Posted by rlwalte2 on July 22, 2011

A recent article by CNN makes note of multiliteracies via pamphlets, buttons, posters, etc. to spread civil rights.  I found this article extremely interesting because they discuss how vital of a role visual culture played from the 1940s through the 1970s.  The speeches of the time were of course monumental, but the blending of visual culture became a very strong underlying technique through which to display African Americans in a new light.  This visual culture was distributed in the way of portable items; fans, badges, buttons, posters, etc.  So, as far back as the 1940s multiliteracies were emerging; people were finding ways to mix images with text and incorporate them into something that would travel far and wide, spreading the desired message.  In analyzing this, I feel it was so powerful for the times.  To imprint images on something like a fan, for example that would become to well traveled was ingenious.  Along with the large exposure something like a button or a poster  received came intrigue; people were receiving information in a new way.  Civil rights activists were clever to begin using multiliteracies to get their message out to the public.  Maurice Berger is the curator for a new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington.  The exhibit is titled “For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights”.  I found it fascinating that Berger states “”The modern Civil Rights movement was the first American political movement to truly take advantage of the new technology of seeing and representing the world,”.  The culture of the 40s, 50s, 60s was still steeped with a very poor, stereotypical image of African Americans, so using multiliteracies to improve that image is fascinating. The African American community used mixed media to highlight the emergence of the Black Arts movement and positive images of African Americans in the community.  They used this emerging idea to educate the world.


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