“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. . . . Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” — Frederick Douglass, West India Emancipation speech, 1857

The history of protest is grounded in the continuing saga of struggle. In an 1857 speech to abolitionists that foreshadowed the American Civil War, Frederick Douglass invoked slave rebellions in Haiti and the larger West Indies that had resulted in emancipation in the early 1800s.

For the Black orator and reformer, who had himself escaped servitude, the success of these revolts showed that freedom is never granted without defiance: “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”

More than 150 years later, Douglass’s fiery call for resistance has been heard, heeded, and amplified thousands of times over. And versions of this message—built on by activists working on behalf of civil rights, the antiwar movement, gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, environmentalism, and more—have found their way onto the print materials used to rebut the status quo.

The graphics in this chapter rally around resistance, defined as a form of collective civil disobedience and loosely interpreted to mean nonviolent protest. Beyond their intended use as signage in events like sit-ins, marches, and encampments; public notices and posters; or publications for use in community organizing, they share a sense of urgency— an insistence on clear, rapid-fire delivery of often dire messaging.