The Civil Rights Movement & Graphic Design

The March on Washington rally on August 28, 1963 was the United States’ largest public demonstration, with more than 250,000 participants. Activists created striking promotional designs to inspire the March on Washington’s massive turnout. Their designs were displayed everywhere, from buses to brochures to the bodies of countless activists.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech deeply moved countless lives as he spoke that day. The speech sent shockwaves throughout the country, challenging perceptions and demanding equality and change. In 2019, we still cherish that speech.

Civil Rights activists understood the importance of socially conscious design and applied it to their publicity efforts. They strived to create visual elements that aligned with their overall message: promoting social change and abolishing Jim Crow. Without the dedication of these activists and their efforts in planning rallies, sit-ins, protests and the marketing of those events, United States history would have taken a much different path and social equality would have been delayed.

Most of these designs were created for the active street marketing campaign, however, Civil Rights activists also reached out to African American media to visually address and discuss social issues, like segregation.

The Civil Rights Movement took place more than five decades ago, but the importance of its message still inspires and influences us everyday. The internet is filled with modern and typographic designs to honor the bravery and strength of Martin Luther King Jr. and the timeless influence of his “I Have a Dream” speech.