Lesson: Emory Douglas: Art and Activism

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: Graphic Design, Art, Literature, Global Studies, History
  • "November 8, 1969," (Revolution in Our Lifetime)."November 8, 1969," (Revolution in Our Lifetime).
  • "1967," (Portrait of Amir Baraka)."1967," (Portrait of Amir Baraka).
  • "1968," (Solidarity with the African Amrican People)."1968," (Solidarity with the African Amrican People).
  • "June 7, 1969," (Free the NY 21...)."June 7, 1969," (Free the NY 21...).
  • "June 6, 1970," (By any means necessary...)."June 6, 1970," (By any means necessary...).
  • "June 27, 1970," (We are from 25 to 30 Million Strong...)."June 27, 1970," (We are from 25 to 30 Million Strong...).
  • "July 25, 1970," (We Want Decent Housing...)."July 25, 1970," (We Want Decent Housing...).
  • "August 21, 1971," (We Shall Survive, Without a Doubt)."August 21, 1971," (We Shall Survive, Without a Doubt).
  • "September 11, 1971," (U.S. Govt. Approved)."September 11, 1971," (U.S. Govt. Approved).
  • "July 29, 1972," (You Got Me Washing Clothes...)."July 29, 1972," (You Got Me Washing Clothes...).
  • "July 28, 1973," (Few Black Folks die of old age - ...)."July 28, 1973," (Few Black Folks die of old age - ...).
  • "August 7, 1976," (The Olympics...)."August 7, 1976," (The Olympics...).

Introduction:

Written by Cathleen Lewis, Manager of High School Programs

“Emory Douglas: Black Panther” is a survey of the graphic designer Emory Douglas’s work from the time he was the Minister of Culture and the designer for the Black Panther, a weekly newspaper that served as the voice of the Panther movement from its inception in 1967. Douglas was a founding member until the Party’s demise in the late 1970s.
 
This is a show about Douglas, and his unique graphic vocabulary. But Douglas’s body of work, taken as a whole, also gives a visual history of the Black Panther Party. Douglas joined the Party after founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. He is responsible for the now-famous emblems of the crouching panther, and the pig, which after 1968 entered the general vocabulary as a stand-in for the police. Douglas’s posters, handbills, and general design for a newspaper—whose circulation in the US was once estimated to be 400,000—also featured the ennobled photographs of the party’s heroes. It also charted its development from an organization fixated on self-defense against police brutality, to a more complicated organization that not only ran crucial social programs in US ghettos, but became, in coalition with other liberal organizations, a participant in government at the local and the national level.

This lesson is part of the Emory Douglas curriculum that utilizes the artist's work from the period that he was the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Culture and the designer for the Black Panther, the Party’s weekly newspaper. Douglas’s unique graphic vocabulary mixes influences from classic activist artists of the 1930s and ’40s. Selected by the Los Angeles artist Sam Durant, whose work often deals with political and cultural subjects in American history, the exhibition includes more than 165 posters, newspapers, and prints dating from 1967 to 1976

Suggested Procedures:

  1. Introduce students to the curriculum by reading the above introduction.

  2. Ask students:What is culture? Who is involved? What are the different aspects of culture? Who determines the values within a culture?

  3. Read the following quote by Claudine K. Brown: “Culture is our beliefs, practices, rituals, and patterns. Culture is also what makes us a family, a neighborhood, a community, and a nation. While certain predominant characteristics can be attributed to specific cultures, these cultures are always evolving.” Ask students to think about the above quote and consider what it means to our families, neighborhood, community, and nation. Brown goes on to say: “In every society, it is often the iconic, participatory experiences created by visual artists, media makers, performers, and musicians that help us see ourselves as one people. Artists provide an image to the world of who we have been, who we are, and who we are becoming…. It is art and often the poetry of great orator that touches us at our core and renews our sense of belong to something larger than ourselves.”

  4. Ask students to write about an art form that has inspired them. This can include, but is not limited to theater, poetry, sculpture, and music. What were the circumstances of them experiencing the art form? Have students share their experience. Did the art form move them to do something? Why? If they did not respond, why?

Resources:

Claudine K. Brown, “2009: The Role of the Arts in a Nation that Has Called for CHANGE,” Grantmakers in the Arts (spring 2009)

Lesson Plan: Emory Douglas: Art and Activism

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