The Sixties in the United States was a time of extreme political involvement for many. Many other countries saw similar activity, such as France with the Situationist Movement, but in the United States perhaps the most memorable and widespread were the civil rights and student activism that came about during this period. Students and youth, opposed to the military intervention in Vietnam as well as the mainstream liberalism and social conservatism that they saw, created a counter-cultural movement that sparked social revolution across the west. Central among their many issues were rights for women and minorities. These groups, such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), used such tools as the strike, rallies, marches, sit-ins, posters, film and an extremely active underground press to spread their message. In addition to the – largely white – student groups operating primarily on campuses across the US, many civil rights groups and groups focused on people of color were gaining national attention. These groups included, but were not limited to the Black Panther Party, the Red Power / American Indian Movement, Chicano movement and more.
Many of these groups focused not only on visual arts and demonstrations, but also wrote extensively. They would frequently issue manifestos, lists of goals/desires, calls to action and generally discuss their platforms. For example, the Black Panther Party (BPP) had four desires : equality in education, housing, employment and civil rights. It also had a 10 Point Plan to get its desired goals. The ten points of the party platform were:
But, of course, the most iconic of all BPP images is the black panther itself.
Much of this iconography still remembered today could be attributed to Emory Douglas – Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded in the 1980s. His graphic art was featured in most issues of the newspaper The Black Panther (which had a peak circulation of 139,000 per week in 1970). As the art director, designer, and main illustrator for The Black Panther newspaper, Douglas created images that became icons, representing black American struggles during the 1960s and 1970s. According to Emory in The Black Panthers and Their High Impact Art, “The symbol of the panther came from Alabama during the civil rights movement, the discipline, determination to want to fight against the injustice young people who were confronted with the same issues they are today.”