Emory Douglas

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Emory Douglas
Emory Douglas.jpg
Emory Douglas speaking at Typo San Francisco in 2014
Born (1943-05-24) May 24, 1943 (age 77)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Known forGraphic design, painting, collage, drawing
MovementBlack Power/Black Arts Movement

Emory Douglas (born May 24, 1943) is an American artist who worked as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded in the 1980s. His graphic art was featured in most issues of The Black Panther newspaper (which had a peak circulation of 139,000 per week in 1970).[1] As the art director, designer, and main illustrator for The Black Panther, Douglas created images that became icons, representing black American struggles during the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life[edit]

Douglas was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. As a teenager, he was incarcerated at the Youth Training School in Ontario, California; during his time there he worked in the prison's printing shop. He later studied commercial art, taking graphic design classes, at San Francisco City College. As Erika Doss wrote, "He also joined the college's Black Students Union and was drawn to political activism."[2]


Douglas joined the Black Panther Party in 1967 after stopping by the Black House, a space created by Eldridge Cleaver with Ed Bullins and Willie Dale, when they were discussing the Black Panther Community News Service, and mentioned to them that he could help improve the look of it.

In 1967 Douglas became the "Revolutionary Artist" and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. He redesigned The Black Panther newspaper and switched to web press, which allowed for colored printing and the use of graphics. He used the back cover and most of the front cover for his graphics and collages that aligned with the BPP message. Here he developed the iconic images that branded the BPP, including the depiction of policemen as pigs. His graphics featured pigs bloodied or hanged as protest against police brutality against African Americans. He also incorporated imagery in line with the Party's 10-Point program, including things such as social services and decent housing. In addition to this, Douglas aligned the Black Panther Party with "Third World liberation struggles" and anti-capitalist movements in works such as the edition of January 3, 1970, which shows a pig dressed in an American flag being impaled while having many guns pointing at it, saying things like "Get out of the ghetto" and "Get out of Africa".

Artworks and later activism[edit]

A mural located in Brisbane, Australia, created by Douglas in collaboration with Richard Bell, celebrating the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute

In addition to the paper, Douglas also designed postcards, event flyers, and posters that were meant as recruitment tactics as well as an additional method of spreading the BBP ideology and creating the impression that there was mass support of the cause.[3] Douglas recalled, "After a while it flashed on me that you have to draw in a way that even a child can understand [in order] to reach your broadest audience without losing the substance or insight of what is represented." (Stewart, 2011).[4]

In 1967 Douglas became Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. In 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jessica Werner Zack reported that he "branded the militant-chic Panther image decades before the concept became commonplace. He used the newspaper's popularity to incite the disenfranchised to action, portraying the poor with genuine empathy, not as victims but as outraged, unapologetic and ready for a fight."[5]

Douglas drew a lot of inspiration from third world struggles and used art as the primary method of propaganda and outreach. His graphics served to promote the Party's ideologies, which were inspired by the rhetoric of revolutionary figures such as Malcolm X and Che Guevara. His images were often very graphic, meant to promote and empower black resistance with the hope of starting a revolution to end institutionalized mistreatment of African Americans.

In 1970 the BBP shifted their stance to emphasize survival programs as opposed to violence. With that, Douglas's imagery changed as well, showing African Americans receiving free food and clothes. They promoted free breakfast programs, free health clinics, free legal aid amongst other things. These programs were considered part of their revolutionary tactic. In response, the FBI cracked down on the cause even more, until it inevitably brought it to an end. However, their ideology is still alive today.[6]

Douglas worked at the black community-oriented San Francisco Sun Reporter[7] newspaper for over 30 years after The Black Panther newspaper was no longer published.[8] He continued to create activist artwork, and his artwork stayed relevant, according to Greg Morozumi, of the Bay Area EastSide Arts Alliance:[9] "Rather than reinforcing the cultural dead end of 'post-modern' nostalgia, the inspiration of his art raises the possibility of rebellion and the creation of new revolutionary culture."[10]

In 2006, artist and curator Sam Durant edited a comprehensive monograph on the work of Douglas, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, with contributors including Danny Glover, Kathleen Cleaver, St. Clair Bourne, Colette Gaiter (associate professor at the University of Delaware), Greg Morozumi (artistic director of the EastSide Arts Alliance in Oakland, California), and Sonia Sanchez.[11]

After the book's publication, Douglas had retrospective exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007–08) and the New Museum in New York. Since the re-introduction of his early work to new audiences, he continues to make new work, exhibit and interact with audiences in formal and informal settings all over the world. His international exhibitions and visits include Urbis, Manchester, England (2008);[12] Auckland, New Zealand,[13] Collaboration with Richard Bell in Brisbane, Australia (2011); Chiapas, Mexico; Lisbon, Portugal (2011)[14]

Colette Gaiter writes:

Douglas was the most prolific and persistent graphic agitator in the American Black Power movements. Douglas profoundly understood the power of images in communicating ideas ... Inexpensive printing technologies—including photostats and press-type, textures and patterns—made publishing a two-color heavily illustrated, weekly tabloid newspaper possible. Graphics production values associated with seductive advertising and waste in a decadent society became weapons of the revolution. Technically, Douglas collaged and re-collaged drawings and photographs, performing graphics tricks with little budget and even less time. His distinctive illustration style featured thick black outlines (easier to trap) and resourceful tint and texture combinations. Conceptually, Douglas's images served two purposes: first, illustrating conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and second, constructing a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized. Most popular media represents middle to upper-class people as "normal." Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and oppressed. Departing from the WPA/social realist style of portraying poor people, which can be perceived as voyeuristic and patronizing, Douglas's energetic drawings showed respect and affection. He maintained poor people's dignity while graphically illustrating harsh situations.

Douglas is now retired but does some freelance design work discussing topics such as black on black crime and the prison industrial complex. A lot of his more current works features children. He feels he must continue to educate through his work.[15]

Selected exhibitions

  • 2009: "Emory Douglas: Black Panther"[16] The New Museum, New York.
  • 2007–08: "Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas"[17] Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Exhibition reviews[edit]

Art Papers Magazine; March/April 2014, Vol. 38, Issue 2, p. 53. "Works Exhibited: Emory Douglas." Carrie Meyer.

Zoot Magazine. April 28, 2011. "ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE – ENTÃO E AGORA": GALERIA ZÉ DOS BOIS, Lisbon.

Green Left Weekly; October 14, 2009, Issue 813, p. 4. "Black Panther artist launches exhibition." The article reviews the exhibition All Power to the People, by Emory Douglas at the Milani Gallery in Brisbane, Queensland. Paul Benedek.

Bomb; Fall 2009, Issue 109, p. 12. Emory Douglas: Black Panther exhibition New Museum, New York City. David Kramer.

Art Newspaper; July/August 2009, Vol. 18, Issue 204, p. 58. Emory Douglas: Black Panther exhibition New Museum, New York City. Helen Stoilas.

Museums Journal (2009), Issue 109/3, 44–47. March. Black Panther: Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution, Urbis, Manchester.

Art in America; June/July 2008, Vol. 96, Issue 6, p. 106. "The Revolution Will Be Visualized." The article reviews the exhibition Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, featuring the work of artist Emory Douglas at the Museum of Contemporary Art's (L.A. MOCA) Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, California, from October 21, 2007, to February 24, 2008. Sarah Valdez.

Book reviews[edit]

Revue de Recherche en civilization américaine. 2 | 2010. Sabrina Sérac, "2: 2010: La culture Populaire américaine" (review of Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas), June 30, 2010, accessed March 28, 2014.

Creative Review; May 2007, Vol. 27, Issue 5, p. 21. " Art and The Man." Carrie Meyer review of Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas.

Library Journal; April 1, 2007, Vol. 132, Issue 6, p. 87. Edward K. Owusu-Ansah review of Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas.

New Statesman; July 23, 2007, Vol. 136, Issue 4854, p. 59. In this article, the author discusses three books which constitute, in his opinion, significant examples of outsider art. The books in question are Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar, by Dori Hadar, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas and "Gravity's Rainbow Illustrated," by Zak Smith.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baltrip-Balagás, Ayana // Print Magazine; March/April 2006, Vol. 60, Issue 2, p. 84. "The Art of Self-Defense."
  • Berger, Maurice. For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. 176.
  • Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E. Martin. Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2013.
  • Doss, Erika. "Revolutionary Art Is a Tool for Liberation." Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy. Kathleen Cleaver and George N. Katsiaficas (eds). New York: Routledge, 2001. 183.
  • Douglas, Emory, Danny Glover, Bobby Seale, Sam Durant, Sonia Sanchez, Kathleen Cleaver, Colette Gaiter, Greg Jung Morozumi, Amiri Baraka, and St Clair Bourne. Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 2014.
  • Foner, Philip S. The Black Panthers Speak. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1995.
  • Gaiter, Colette. "The Revolution Will Be Visualized." Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner (eds), West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965–1977, Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota, 2012. 240–253.
  • Jones, Charles E. The Black Panther Party (reconsidered). Baltimore: Black Classic, 1998.
  • Pearson, Hugh. The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub., 1994.
  • Rhodes, Jane. Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon. New York: New York, 2007.
  • Roberts, Shaun. "Studio Visit with Emory Douglas." Studio Visit with Emory Douglas. Juxtapoz Magazine, February 22, 2011.
  • Sudbanthad, Pitchaya. "Emory Douglas: Biography". Journeys. AIGA Journal, n.d. Retrieved April 27, 2014.


The first exhibition by the campaigning US artist Emory Douglas in the UK, pays tribute to an unsung hero of the modern civil rights movement.


  1. ^ Colette Gaiter, ""Visualizing a Revolution: Emory Douglas and The Black Panther Newspaper", AIGA (June 8, 2005).
  2. ^ Doss, Erika (2001). Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party. New York, London: Routledge. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-415-92784-0.
  3. ^ Lampert, Nicolas (2013). A People's Art History of the United States : 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements. The New Press. pp. 199–210. ISBN 9781595589316.
  4. ^ Stewart, Sean. (2011). On the ground : an illustrated anecdotal history of the sixties underground press in the U.S. Oakland, CA: PM Press. ISBN 9781604866582. OCLC 785618881.
  5. ^ Zack, Jessica Werner, "The Black Panthers advocated armed struggle. Emory Douglas' weapon of choice? The pen", San Francisco Chronicle, May 28, 2007.
  6. ^ 1969-, Lampert, Nicolas (2013-11-05). A people's art history of the United States : 250 years of activist art and artists working in social justice movements. New York. ISBN 9781595589316. OCLC 505420503.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "San Francisco Sun Reporter". The Sun-Reporter Publishing Company, Inc. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Austin, Curtis J. (2006). Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 414.
  9. ^ "East Side Arts Alliance". Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  10. ^ Morozumu, Greg (2007). Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. New York: Rizzoli. p. 136.
  11. ^ Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. Rizzoli.
  12. ^ Robert Clark (December 20, 2008). "Exhibition preview: Emory Douglas, Manchester". The Guardian. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  13. ^ "5th Auckland Triennial". Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  14. ^ "'ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE – ENTÃO E AGORA': GALERIA ZÉ DOS BOIS, LISBON". Zoot Magazine. April 28, 2011. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  15. ^ "Emory Douglas' Design Journey". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  16. ^ "Emory Douglas: Black Panther". New Museum Digital Archive. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  17. ^ "Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas". Archived from the original on January 7, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  18. ^ "Emory Douglas Public Critique (Part I)". Vimeo. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  19. ^ "Emory Douglas Public Critique (Part II)". Vimeo. Retrieved 2019-03-13.

External links[edit]