Emory Douglas

The Black Panthers’ official artist and ‘minister of culture’ explains his provocative images to Digital Arts.

Not many artists’ work can justifiably be described as iconic; Emory Douglas is one of those artists. Between 1967 and the end of the 1970s, Douglas was the official artist of the US black activist group the Black Panther Party and the art director of the organization’s mouthpiece, the weekly paper The Black Panther.

For 13 years, he created the images and visual aesthetic that defined the Black Panthers, documenting poverty and urging black Americans to resist police oppression – by violent means if necessary.

Douglas’ proudly revolutionary images took up the whole back page of almost every issue of the paper ever printed. They were crucial in planting the movement’s aims in the imaginations of the Black Panthers’ key audience – deprived communities where many people were illiterate or semi-literate.

Because of this, his artworks had a political weight that few graphic designers today could even dream of today. “A lot of people used to say they’d buy the paper just for the artwork itself,” says Douglas now.

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