My name is Krista and I’ve been an intern at the Freedom Archives since November 2016, winter of my senior year in high school. I spent my first eight months here working on an update to the Environmental Justice collection, editing audio clips for the Chican@ General Resources collection and archiving editions of Tricontinental magazine.
In my final months before heading off to college, I took on the task of archiving all the posters here at the Archives. If you’ve ever visited the Freedom Archives, you’ve seen the forty or so posters up on the walls, but there also about seventy more scattered throughout the space. This diverse collection of posters reflects elements from across the history represented in the Archives; they range from promotions for specific marches, rallies and informational events to original artwork by Emory Douglas and Laura Whitehorn. One of my personal favorites is a work that hangs on the door of the Freedom Archives office.
This particular poster (pictured below) was designed by Scott Braley in 1992 and comes out of Fireworks Graphics Collective, the prolific Bay area print shop that operated from the 70’s through the 90’s. I’m struck by the numerous historical threads that come together in this poster. It features a quote from Malcolm X’s 1964 speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and it was designed in the wake of the Rodney King Riots. As I write this its relevance continues to resonate in St. Louis after ex-officer Jason Stockley was acquitted for the murder of Anthony Lamar.
While researching each poster’s history, I sifted through a combination of poster archives, activist blogs, defunct websites and the existing collection at the Archives. I began to piece together the web of artists and art collectives responsible for the production of these posters. I learned that Fireworks Graphics was just one of a multitude of collectives around the world that produced artwork in the spirit of people’s liberation and empowerment. Examined together, these posters illustrate an array of organizations and movements that have advocated for progressive values, no matter the circumstances. Viewed individually, they tell the story of specific activists in their fight to educate and empower their communities. I’m honored to have been a part of preserving the narrative power of these posters.