Throughout American history, posters have ebbed and flowed in their popularity, but black history posters remain a beloved collectible of the recent past. And since they're hard to find outside of public collections, you should snatch any of these culturally relevant and striking posters up the first chance that you get.
Collecting Black History Posters
Black Americans have had a significant impact on the course of American history. However, the lasting narrative surrounding their experience was largely controlled by a white supremacist system that idolized its own artistic output over that of people of color's. Thus, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that posters about the Black experience in America made from the hands of the Black community began taking up space in popular culture; not only taking up space, but being applauded and shared. While there was a wealth of these posters exploring various causes and issues, very few of them remain today, and fewer still available for purchase.
Vintage Posters Highlighting Black History
Before social media and the 24-hour network news cycle, people used posters to advertise information to the public. This could be something as insignificant as a new product or community event or something as pressing as systemic racism. Just as the United States had a flourishing poster propaganda machine during World War I and World War II, Black Americans used posters to create awareness of the disenfranchisement and the racism, sexism, wealth disparity, and sociocultural segregation that was being inflicted on them in the 20th century (though much of these problems still exist today).
During the 1960s and 1970s, when the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement, to name a few, successively took command of the two decades, posters about Black America were printed in the largest amounts. This period was a creative and empowered boom for the Black community in America as they rallied against the oppressive systems around them and used graphic art to explore their feelings and causes.
Significant Themes of These Posters
These historic posters can be organized based on their subject matter, which was as varied and rich as the communities who created them. Generally, posters were divided by being connected and/or driving engagement for social parties like the Black Panthers, representing specific iconography of popular figures in these movements, or discussing important topics like voter suppression.
Here are a just a few of the subjects that these posters touched on over the years:
- The Black Panther Party
- The Civil Rights Movement
- Black Power
- Black Feminism
- Voter Suppression
- Popular Icons
- Disproportionate imprisonment
- Police Brutality
How Much Do Black History Posters Cost?
Since there aren't that many real historical examples of these posters currently for sale (whether that's due to them belonging to private and public history organizations or not having been preserved to the present day), posters that reflect the American experience from the Black perspective vary in price, with some being quite expensive.
Of course, general aspects like condition and size will have an impact on these poster's prices, but the fact that they're so rare to find on the open market gives them a generic price baseline that's comparatively higher than those from the period, but still affordable in some cases. Those with significant cultural relevance, like this original Black Panther Party poster from 1971 which sold for $2,802.02 or this 1960 poster advertising the Martin Luther King Jr. defense fund and an upcoming concert supporting it that sold for $6,500, will sell in the thousands. However, creative posters connecting to Black America but not to a special movement or moment, like this 1970s rendering of a militant Angela Davis poster, can be really affordable at around $20-$50.
There's also a burgeoning movement of online creatives creating digital and print art that pays homage to figures, events, and movements relating to Black history in the United States. There are innumerable examples of this art for purchase on sites across the internet, so if you want something with a cheaper price tag, then you can always turn to something that's vintage inspired.
Where to Purchase Posters
Posters representing historically significant individuals, groups, and events are available from many online retailers. The following websites carry full lines of black history posters at affordable prices.
- Etsy - Etsy is a website filled with independent sellers that are both selling their modern renderings of art celebrating Black history as well as the real vintage examples from the period. You can also intentionally support BIPOC creatives through Etsy as well.
- 1st Dibs - This auction website carries the more rare and expensive black history posters that come to market, typically bearing some sort of cultural or personal reference to Black Americans or Black American groups.
Commemorate the Black American Experience in the Present
Take the chance to commemorate the Black American experience today in the way that so many were struck down for trying to do in America's past. Celebrate the leaders and movements that fought an ongoing fight to create an American society that not only welcomed but respected Black Americans as much as its other citizens.