Iconic Protest Posters
Here Are Some Of The Most Powerful Protest Posters In History
From the Vietnam War to the recent Women’s March, nothing gets the message across better than a good protest poster.
today’s protest signs are noted for their creativity and humour, often poking fun at political leaders and utilising the language of the internet and meme culture to help share the message via social media.
While today’s protest posters have indeed evolved with new media, they are by no means the first to visualise the frustrations of the masses. To illustrate how past generations have expressed their ideas through posters, Angelina Lippert, chief curator of the Poster House museum in New York City, which is expected to open to the public in 2019, has shared with BuzzFeed News some of the most iconic protest posters from history and her words on the cultural significance of these designs.
“An Attack Against One,” circa 1970
Created by a member of the Black Panther Party around 1970, at the peak of the Panthers’ popularity, this is one of the more lasting images from the period, in part because its unfortunate cultural relevance persists to this day.
Acclaimed artist and writer Tomi Ungerer created numerous posters protesting the war in Vietnam, each one more brutal and jarring than the next. Here, the white arm of America is shown shoving the Statue of Liberty down the throat of a Vietnamese citizen.
“We Will Not Be Silenced,” 2017
Last November, boutique branding agency ThoughtMatter decided to use their graphic design skills to produce posters that protesters could download and print for use at the many Women’s Marches that took place in January.
They donated 15,000 posters to organizations around the country and went on to create another series of posters, advocating for gun control, for the March for Our Lives, which was featured in Poster House’s #HotPosterGossip window display earlier this year.
“War Waste Energy,” 1981
In the 1970s and ’80s, Japanese artist Masuteru Aoba created a series of protest posters focusing on nonviolence and environmentalism, including this one, in 1981. His chief goal was to create a more empathetic society. The work was so well received that he was asked to create the official poster for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano.
“Come Together in Peace,” 1968
In 1968, students gathered at the Rhode Island School of Design to create posters in protest of the Vietnam War. Hastily silkscreened in black and red, they were largely inspired by the May ’68 posters done in Paris earlier that year.
“Silence = Death,” 1987
This poster, created in 1987 by a group of six gay men in New York City to draw attention to the AIDS crisis, harkened back to the pink triangle’s use in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexual prisoners — a symbol that was reclaimed by the LGBT community beginning in the 1970s as a symbol of pride.
The poster was adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, after its formation, when several of the original creators joined the group, and remains an iconic emblem of the movement.
“End Bad Breath,” 1968
One of graphic designer and illustrator Seymour Chwast’s most notable designs, he created this poster in 1968 in protest of the Vietnam War. Shown is Uncle Sam — the traditional symbol of American patriotism — with his mouth open to reveal planes bombing a small village.