who’d have thought it? a history of the peace symbol

i’m doing some work on political symbols and activist art at the moment and I came across Docs Populi- documents for the public. The site is a digital archive of political posters, maintained by Lincoln Cushing, who I now have a political history/archivist crush on.

Browsing through the site I was kind of excited to see histories of popular protest symbols, such as the Black Panther Party Logo (originally conceived as an emblem for The Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama, a political party of anti-racist organisers who legally required an emblem by law. The party they were opposing was the “Alabama Democratic Party” who were white supremacists with a ‘cockrel’ emblem. The press referred to the LCFO as the “Black Panthers” and some of the organizers involved in this party, such as Stokely Carmichael, also got involved in the Black Panther Party for Self Defence in Oakland, California- the Black Panthers we’re more familiar with).

There’s also a history of the clenched fist symbol. And the peace symbol, which was created in 1958 by Gerald Holton, a chap who was a professional designer and used to study at the Royal College of Arts. I never really thought about this before, but it makes sense now: the upside down Y shape of the symbol is semaphore for “N” and “D” – standing for nuclear disarmament. Genius!

Go on, check out the site! It’s got digitized posters from Labour campaigns, Cuban and Chinese poster art, and more!

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2 Responses to who’d have thought it? a history of the peace symbol

  1. lcushing1 says:

    Thanks for the peace symbol essay shout out. If you liked that, you’ll love my latest book – All of Us or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area. I don’t think I can leave a URL here but it’s easy to find.

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