Portable Images

Civil rights activists often turned to portable images—buttons, decals, brochures, comic books, and other artifacts—to disseminate persuasive messages meant to incite action or enthusiasm for political causes. These objects represented a variety of political causes, and include the campaign materials of black politicians as well as the broadsides of civil rights organizations. Their need to attract attention and their disposable nature inspired adventurous, spirited, and creative use of graphic design.

Click Images for More Detail
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, 1957
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, 1957
Fellowship of Reconciliation (Nyack, New York)
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, 1957
Offset lithograph on paper
9 x 13 in.
Collection of Paul Gardullo
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace organization, published this comic book, which tells the story—through vivid pictures and texts—of the Montgomery bus boycott and its aftermath. Some 250,000 copies were distributed, both to advocate and offer instruction in civil disobedience.
March on Washington Souvenir Portfolio, 1963
March on Washington Souvenir Portfolio, 1963
Louis Lo Monaco (artist)
March on Washington Souvenir Portfolio, 1963
Silkscreen on paper
11 x 9 1/4 in.
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.50
The artist Louis Lo Monaco used fragments of disturbing photographs from Life magazine—notably, the image of a rabid police dog poised to attack a demonstrator—in a souvenir portfolio of collages issued by the National Urban League for the 1963 March on Washington. The portfolio was sold for one dollar to help defray the cost of the event.
Free Angela Davis, c. 1971
George Wallace for President, 1968
George Wallace for President, 1968

White supremacist, segregationist, and states’ rights organizations and political candidates also distributed buttons, pamphlets, and other portable objects, such as this key chain, cloth patch with the Confederate flag, and political button, emblazoned with the word that came to signify southern defiance of integration: Never.

Never, 1968
Pinback
3 7/16 in. diameter
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.52

BSA Confederate Flag, 1961
Cloth
TK Dimensions
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2010.10

George Wallace for President, 1968
Pinback
3 7/16 in. diameter
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.172

George Wallace for President, 1968
Offset lithograph on paper, metal
5 x 4 x 1/16 in.
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, Anonymous Gift, 2008.6