News

Dec 22, 2020

Salon Video: A Conversation with Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas, The Black Panther (cover detail), Vol. 3, No. 5, January 3, 1970.
Emory Douglas, The Black Panther (cover detail), Vol. 3, No. 5, January 3, 1970.

It’s been a long, long, long … long year, and you’ve stuck by us through thick and thin. For many, this is the season of giving, and we believe that’s a two-way street.

One of our most popular membership benefits is access to recordings of the Salon Series, and this year our most popular Salon was, without a doubt, Making The Black Panther, A Conversation with Emory Douglas, held virtually on August 27, 2020.

We decided this recording should be free to the public — no membership or donation required and no time limits!

Emory Douglas at work on The Black Panther, 1970. Photo: Stephen Shames. Reproduced from Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas.
Emory Douglas at work on The Black Panther, Oakland, 1970. Photo by Stephen Shames, reproduced from Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, edited by Sam Durant, Rizzoli, 2007.

“One day I went over to [Eldridge Cleaver’s studio apartment] and saw them working on that first issue of the paper. I told them I could help them improve the quality of it. … They said, ‘We want you to be our Revolutionary Artist. [The paper] will tell our story from our perspective.’” — Emory Douglas

This Salon was near and dear to our hearts. Emory Douglas is a Bay Area legend. As the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 to the early 1980s he chronicled his community’s response to police brutality, racism, and economic injustice through his artwork for The Black Panther. The Archive is honored to hold over 100 issues of the newspaper, and we showed original prints of Douglas’s posters and covers while he described his creative process, his experience with the Black Panthers, and how this work relates to today’s movements for social justice.

Screenshot of Letterform Archive Salon: Emory Douglas, Making the Black Panther
Librarian Kate Long presents Black Panther issues and the kinds of rubdown type that were used to make them. The program took a few minutes to get moving because Emory was disconnected in the middle of his first answer. Upon returning he immediately quipped, “Maybe somebody didn’t like what I was about to say.” We were on the edge of our seats for the next hour and a half.

“We had limited budgets. The beauty that comes out of it is being creative with what we had.” — Emory Douglas

One message that rang clear to all who attended: too little has changed since 1967. Douglas’s graphics demonstrate the power of design, and more specifically, the impact of a designer speaking truth from their own experience. His work continues to influence activists of all kinds to this day.

We hope this gift brings you some joy and resolve as we close out this year of struggle. Thank you for supporting our effort to share work and stories like Emory’s. All power to the people!

Letterform Archive Staff