Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters

Regular price $ 27.95

by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W Drescher

ILR Press

4/1/2009, paperback

SKU: 9780801474279                           



We seek to inform as well as to celebrate. The best posters about American workers and the jobs at which they labor make up a visually fascinating body of work that rewards our attention. The posters were produced with a dual purpose: to entertain and to inform. They were also vehicles for working people to present themselves visually, which is rarely as straightforward as it might seem because the labor force itself is not monolithic. Nor are the posters about just paid or wage labor. They repeatedly demonstrate that labor issues include both the workplace and the outside community and often portray families and neighbors, not just fellow workers.--from Agitate! Educate! Organize!
In Agitate! Educate! Organize!, Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher share their vast knowledge about the rich graphic tradition of labor posters. Lavish full-color reproductions of more than 250 of the best posters that have emerged from the American labor movement ensure that readers will want to return again and again to this visually fascinating treasury of little-known images from the American past. Some of the posters were issued by government programs and campaigns; some were devised by unions as recruiting tools or strike announcements; others were generated by grassroots organizations focused on a particular issue or group of workers--all reveal much about the diverse experiences of working people in the United States.American labor posters are widely scattered, difficult to locate, and rarely archived. Cushing and Drescher examined several thousand such images in the course their research, guaranteeing a truly representative selection. The presentation of the posters is thematic, with a brief history of activist graphic media followed by chapters on Dignity and Exploitation; Health and Safety; Women; Race and Civil Rights; War, Peace and Internationalism; Solidarity and Organizing; Strikes and Boycotts; Democracy, Voting, and Patriotism; History, Heroes, and Martyrs; and Culture. Along with the stunning color images, the text contributes to a much deeper understanding of the politics, history, artistry, and impact of this genre of activist art and the importance of the labor movement in the transformation of American society over the course of the twentieth century.


"Agitate! Educate! Organize! is as valuable for the roadmap it offers for labor's future as it is a treasure-trove of labor's past. I've read my share of books of social movement posters, and Agitate! Educate! Organize! is in a class by itself."--Randy Shaw, author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century

"This book features more than 250 posters to come out of the American labor movement, along with a commentary on the impact of activist art."--How, October 2009"This valuable document collects a century of posters designed by labor organizers, for purposes ranging from workplace safety to equal pay for women.... Some are confrontational, like a Farm Labor Organizing poster featuring a drawing of a Campbell's soup can with a label reading 'Condemned: Cream of Exploitation.' A 1976 poster designed by Barbara Morgan bears the headline 'Your Job is Killing You, ' followed by statistics comparing the number of Americans killed on the job with the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Posters about women workers feature original Rosie the Riveter designs, as well as one stating 'This Dept. Has Gone _____ Days With No Sexual Harassment.'... It's simply fascinating viewing that produces a sharp sense of nostalgia for a time when powerful visual art could lead to real change for the victimized."


About the Authors:

Lincoln Cushing is the author of Revolucion! Cuban Poster Art and coauthor of Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Timothy W. Drescher is the author of San Francisco Bay Area Murals: Communities Create their Muses, 1904-1997.