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Emory Douglas
B. 1943 (age 77) Michigan, USA.

You work with me not someone else

Written by Sarah Feeney for the modernist magazine online.

sarah_feeney_writes_for_the_modernist_black_panther_party_7

Emory Douglas was Minister of Culture at The Black Panther Party for its active years - from 1966 to 1982.

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The distinctive visual look of the Black Panther Party resulted from the creative direction of Emory Douglas - and that’s a BIG achievement because their visual game was strong.

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His distinctive, stylised graphics and printed-poster-art aesthetic helped a message to be quickly understood. It perfectly complemented the party's bold and clear communique highlighting the struggle of African-Americans regarding structural and institutional racism, the fight not being in Vietnam but in their US homeland, police brutality, oppression and inequality.

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Their posters, pamphlets and newspaper, The Black Panther - of which Douglas was Art Director - became the party's most potent and effective weapon, the newspaper selling 300,000 copies a week at its peak in 1970.

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It was protest art, and his work served the party's program of armed activism and revolution: their ‘plot for progress’.

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Although pre-1969, the party advocated masculinity and traditional gender roles, this soon changed, and women took leadership too. Everyone was active and, in turn, depicted in his work as bad-ass icons against sunburst motifs, their regulation Remington shotgun either at their side or leading the charge. The whole community - including the elderly and children - took a starring role - it was an egalitarian movement and artistic approach.

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The dissemination of their printed material via their state Chapters was a well-oiled campaign. These creative outputs soon facilitated a coherent and consistent voice that rang loud and clear across the United States.

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It was instantly recognisable. NOTHING looked or sounded like The Black Panther Party - nor has it since.

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The spirit, ideology and culture of the Black Panther Party are kept alive today by the graphics Emory Douglas created. A visual archive of a moment in time and a spirit - and struggle - that still endures; in the words of The Black Panther Party itself:

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SEIZE THE TIME. 

REVOLUTION IN OUR LIFETIME. 

 

Photos were taken at the pop-up exhibition: Beyond the Streets by Roger Gastman, NYC 2019.

As featured in the modernist magazine online.

Writing by Sarah Feeney​

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Follow Sarah Feeney's modernist adventures on INSTAGRAM:

@under_rocks_sarah_feeney

 

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