Art & Activism: I Am An Artist
Finding Inspiration in An Iconic Poster
September 17, 2018
by Michael Bilsborough
The poster concept is inspired by the iconic “I Am A Man” poster, which was originally designed for the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. The majority of them African-American, sanitation workers went on strike in February 1968 after two trash handlers were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Memphis' mayor refused negotiation, forcing the strike to continue as it gained national attention. Striking workers marched, carrying posters declaring "I AM A MAN.” Originally printed by the Allied Printing Trades Council, the poster is in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The poster’s message has continued to resonate across art and culture. For example, the contemporary artist Dread Scott revised the historic poster for "I Am Not a Man," a 2009 performance presented on the streets of Harlem. Scott writes, "I walked bearing a historic, but crucially altered, protest sign that read 'I Am Not a Man.' Throughout the walk, actions in the performance evoked the humiliation that is visited on Black people and the negation that defines our existence."
Copies of the poster are available in our office for a limited time, so come by to pick up your copy today!