A Hands-On Exploration of Propaganda Posters

In U.S. History class, 11th graders looked at political posters created during the 20th century, from WWI posters rallying national pride to Black Panther Party posters calling out racial injustices to contemporary Women’s March posters promoting gender equality. Thus inspired, students designed their own images addressing issues about which they are passionate. Their creations reveal quite a breadth of interests, including domestic issues like gun violence, gender equality, capitalism, consumerism, Asian hate, and Black Lives Matter to international themes like immigration, hunger awareness, deforestation, and climate change. Utilizing the flat graphic appearance of screen print, images are bold and the message is succinct and clever. The appeal of screen printing is the ease with which a poster can be mass-produced. Students hand-cut stencils with Exacto knives and print on paper with a squeegee.

Below are descriptions written by the students about their work:

Sophia: I created my poster to communicate World Hunger Awareness - clearly represented by the three emaciated children and the color orange. As of 2020, an estimated 821 million people experience starvation on a daily basis, with numbers increasing at a steady rate. Additionally, about 1.5 million children die every year due to severe malnutrition. I chose to protest this topic because food insecurity is, and has been, a worldwide problem caused by the poor distribution of resources - an issue that, unfortunately, often gets overlooked as we go about our day (especially since we do not experience it ourselves), yet it is so prominent.

Spencer: In line with the rising amount of anti-transgender legislature that has been popping up across the U.S, this April the Florida House passed a bill, HB 1475, that would ban transgender girls and women from playing on girls and women sports teams at the high school and college level. The bill aims to determine participation based on students' assigned sex at birth, and it would force students whose sex is questioned to undergo genital inspections to ‘prove’ their sex. I wanted to make a poster to highlight the discriminatory nature of this bill - to work towards dismantling the harmful idea that genitals, sex, and gender identity are synonymous and that such things can be determined from external examination.

Zach and Sarah: Immigration has been a contentious topic of debate within our nation for the past few years. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten the fact that immigration was at the heart of this nation. It is the American Way in that it is what makes this country so unique. It has shaped our collective identity, culture, and traditions. We wanted to make a poster to highlight that, not only is every immigrant welcome in this country, they are essential in weaving the fabric of our nation’s future.

Howard and Jack: Asian hate in the United States is rooted in anti-Asian immigration laws in the 1800s and the Japanese internment camps of World War II. In the current day, Asian hate is becoming more and more prominent because of racist people blaming them for the COVID-19 outbreak. This has led to a 169% increase in Asian hate crimes that seem to be glossed over compared to other issues.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was two years old, and ever since then, I’ve been treated as a disabled person. Neurotypical people perceive autism as something damaging, but that is not the case. Autistic people contribute a lot to society. If autism didn’t exist, we would not have the stellar acting work of Anthony Hopkins, the bizarre films of Tim Burton, or the beloved writings of Lewis Caroll. Autistic people should not get cast aside because they exist in a world not built for them. I wanted to convey that autism is not a disability but a superpower.

Michael: Deforestation is a critical threat to animals across the globe, and it is the leading cause of extinction. Raising awareness for this vital issue is of the utmost importance, as we cannot rewind extinction. Hopefully, this poster will motivate people to donate to organizations dedicated to preventing deforestation or to inform others. While it’s only one bear shown in the poster, there are thousands of animals among numerous species that are at risk as well. If the bear doesn’t move you enough to take action, please type “sad deforestation images” into Google.

Max: One aspect of capitalism that I have always really liked is the ability for anyone anywhere to “make it big” and gain financial freedom. My poster specifically focuses on this feature of capitalism while simultaneously mocking socialism for the way that it suppresses individual economic growth and encourages the “leech.”

Kailei and Tasha: Gun control and the interpretation of the Second Amendment, which gives U.S. citizens the right to a “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, [as well as] the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” has been a long-term discussion. Over the last few years, however, this disagreement has grown to become even more divisive with the horrid increase nationwide of mass shootings. We designed this poster in order to bring more awareness to the lack of gun control in our country and demand that people realize the tragedy that can result from insufficient legislation. The backpack with an AR- 15 communicates the ever-pressing possibility of a school shooting.

Domenic: Over the years, consumerism and consumer culture have undoubtedly consumed (hehe) human culture itself. Every day we are bombarded by advertisements, trying to convince us that we NEED to buy and we NEED to do so as much as possible. Purposefully limited stock and inflated price tags, coupled with products not built to last only further this notion. Mega-conglomerates and titanic corporations grow larger as time passes, making it easier to get away with all of these problematic practices. Even if overly simplified and equally optimistic adverts attempt to distract us from this, the fact still remains; If you see it, buy it!

Cody and Jack: This poster is a depiction of a mother rhino with her calf.  The mother’s horn has been cut off due to poaching. Our goal is to show the lasting pain that poaching can cause our wildlife. We need to take action against such inhumane acts or else the rhino population will be gone in as little as ten years.
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