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On the Shoulders

A year after black people were freed from slavery, the Ku Klux Klan rose like ghosts from the ash of the Civil War. From America’s smoldering subconscious, relentless and inflammatory racist campaigns sparked through every media channel.

 

The goal: Scar. Singe. Incinerate African-American identity.

The method: Brand our people as terrorists of southern purity and assassinate our character, leaving it charred, chopped, and hung to dry.

The result was just as brutal – giving rise to the advent of Jim Crow propaganda, such as “The Birth of a Nation,” which cauterized hope of racial equality and seared confirmation of superiority.

Then rose an opposition.

Investigative journalist Ida B. Wells penned “The Red Record,” a detailed account of horrific racial violence in the South.

Thought leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois challenged the status quo of white superiority with writings that helped lay the foundation for African-American intellectualism and social justice.

Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux and a crew of other creatives joined together to tackle the most critical project for a newly-freed people:

  • How do we respond to the complex conundrum of branding a race?
  • How do we give people a vision of who they will be and how they will
    survive?
  • How do we educate each other, and who do we employ?
  • How do we command art and culture to answer the labored question
    of the negro problem?
  • How do we use public relations to draw light to the atrocities that occur in plain sight?
And so, here we are today. Given our current social and political climate, African-American/Black visual communicators must ask themselves those same questions and respond with relevant answers.

Where do we start? We start here.

More Articles in this Issue

  • The Shoulders of Giants
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    Design Challenge

    Using contemporary tools, reimagine one stereotypical image.

  • The Shoulders of Giants
    On the Shoulders

    Yo! So the next time you ask yourself, “Where is the Black Design Aesthetic going?”

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