Black Panther Artist: Emory Douglas

Art of Emory Douglas

Malcolm X was assassinated 40 years ago on February 21st, 1965, while addressing a meeting in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom, -he was 39. Malcolm’s fiery Black nationalism and advocacy of armed self-defense for African Americans, combined with his call for winning liberation “By any means necessary”, cleared the way for an entire new generation of young Black activists. A year after Malcolm’s death, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party, an organization that would be on the frontlines of Black struggle in the US for the next 20 years.

Emory Douglas joined the Panther Party in 1967 and became its Minister of Culture. His confrontational graphics defined the party’s agenda and served as front and back covers for The Black Panther, the party’s official tabloid. Throughout the late sixties, tens of thousands of his posters were wheat-pasted on walls from California to New York. Douglas developed a crude and exaggerated cartoon style that excoriated and humiliated racist politicians, landlords, capitalists, and police, portraying them as de-humanized pigs. In fact his inflammatory graphics so popularized the epithet of “pig”, that the insult became a lasting part of the American lexicon.

In July 2004, the Sargent Johnson Gallery in San Francisco mounted a major exhibit of Douglas’ artworks called A Retrospective on the Black Panther Party & the Art of Emory Douglas. Alden Kimbrough, the archivist who provided historic prints to the exhibit, said this about the show, “Only a small percentage of art actually reflects real social and political issues -even less ever gain acceptance by the dominant art culture which determines critical and public interpretations of art, especially by black artists.

The art of Emory Douglas stresses themes of resistance, struggle against racism, oppression and exploitation, as well as the joys that life offers and the richness of a people’s cultural heritage and history.” The It’s About Time Committee is a group of Panther sympathizers and alumni who promote the legacy of the Black Panther Party (BPP). They maintain a website where you can find a gallery of Douglas’ works, plus historic texts.

Comments are closed.