How Posters Helped Shape America and Change the World
One enthusiast's collection, on exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California, offers a sweeping look at grass-roots movements since the 1960s
- By Jeff Greenwald
- Smithsonian.com, May 23, 2012
(Frank Cieciorka, Untitled, Circa 1966. Screen print, 35 x 23 in. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, All Of Us Or None Archive. Fractional and promised gift of The Rossman Family)
Both the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s used fliers and picket signs, which don’t enjoy the wide distribution or easy-to-display impact of posters. This bold example—inspired by a 1965 woodcut by San Jose-based artist Frank Cieciorka—is nearly as iconic as the famous peace symbol. Cieciorka, who died in 2008, was politically active for decades. He traced his radicalization back to May 13, 1960—the day he saw a group of his friends, who were protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings in San Francisco, “washed down the City Hall steps with fire hoses.” Since that time, countless social justice groups—from the United Farm Workers to the Occupy movement—have adopted Cieciorka’s fist as a symbol of outrage and struggle.