A Man Was Lynched Yesterday & more signs of resistance to know
In hundreds of iconic, smart, angry, clever, unforgettable images, Bonnie Siegler's book Signs of Resistance chronicles what truly makes America great: citizens unafraid of speaking truth to power.
Featuring two hundred and forty images -from British rule and women's suffrage to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War; from women's equality and Black Lives Matter to the actions of our forty-fifth president and the Women's March- the book offers an inspiring, optimistic, and visually galvanizing history lesson about the power people have when they take to the streets and stand up for what's right.
“When it comes to the history of protest, sassy signs are nothing new. In fact, figuring out how to represent a protest movement with a few snappy words or an incisive image is a crucial component to making a movement work. And when that effort is successful, it can be truly memorable” writes TIME of a must-have book on the visual politics of protests in America.
“In an era before social media, big, bold typefaces and capital letters — as seen in the 1936 image of the A Man Was Lynched Yesterday flag that the NAACP would fly at its Manhattan headquarters on Fifth Avenue — were also an easy way to quickly convey facts to the most amount of people” Siegler explains of the iconic sign.
The flag bearing the words "A MAN WAS LYNCHED YESTERDAY" was flown from the national headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) between 1920 and 1938 to mark lynchings of black people in the United States.
The flag was simple and had the white text on a black background written in bold typeface, a choice to best convey the message quickly to a crowd of people. It was flown the day after news of a lynching reached the NAACP and flew 73 times in the period for lynchings in the state of Georgia alone.
The flag was purchased using money raised after the lynching of Jesse Washington in 1916 and was stopped from flying after the NAACP's landlord threatened them with eviction if they continued the practice.
A modern art installation has been created by African American Dread Scott, inspired by the original NAACP flag. Scott created the flag, which reads "A MAN WAS LYNCHED BY POLICE YESTERDAY", following the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott whilst running from a police officer in South Carolina.
Scott said that the work, which he entitled simply A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday, was intended to provoke public dialogue and act as a sign of hope that people can learn from history. He stated that police shootings in the 21st century played the same role in terrorising black people that lynchings did in earlier times.
The New York Times described the work as memorable for its simplicity and high contrast between white lettering and black background.
Per noted designer and educator Bonnie Siegler, Signs of resistance is “a collection of visual expressions of resistance throughout American history.”
“They include broadsides, postcards, posters, greeting cards, sculptures, paintings, ads, book covers, magazine covers, handmade signs, projections, and the back sides of scrap paper. They were created by artists, designers, and everyday men, women, and children (!) who might not have had a lot of creative background but certainly had a lot to say. People used the weapons they had at their disposal: paper and pen. Their only ‘client’ was their conscience. Every protest image was made because someone felt compelled to act out of a belief in what they felt was right.”
“While I was compiling this book, I went back and forth between rage and hope — rage because, to quote a favorite sign at the Women’s March, 'I can’t believe we are still protesting this [s--t].' And hope because, looking at these images reminded me, and I hope others, that there have been other dark, shameful chapters in American history, and yet somehow democracy survived,” writes Siegler. “Because we did what we do best: We kept fighting.”
Bonnie Siegler, voted one of the fifty most influential designers working today by Graphic Design USA, founded and runs the award-winning design studio Eight and a Half. She is best known for her design work for Saturday Night Live, the Criterion Collection, HBO, Late Night with Seth Meyers, StoryCorps, Participant Media, and Newsweek.
Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America is available here.