U.S. Wartime Propaganda Posters & African Americans

Since 1926, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has chosen the theme for Black History month. This year they have selected “African Americans in time of War”. We have put together a gallery to show African Americans in U.S. wartime propaganda posters. The U.S. government has used propaganda posters to actively pursue black recruits since the Revolutionary War.

History of Wartime Propaganda Posters in the U.S.

The United States government has long used propaganda posters for its war efforts, whether that is to recruit troops or shore up support. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “I Want You” recruitment poster from World War I. Created in 1916, it has become an iconic part of Americana.

Advertisements and Propaganda

The most common form of propaganda is the advertisement. You react, often subconsciously, to a Coca-Cola sign every time you see one. The red and white colors, familiar design, and message elicit a reaction. As you look through this gallery, be aware of your visceral reactions to the posters.

Although all forms of advertising are propaganda in some respect, not all propaganda has advertising as its goal. Propaganda created by a government has a unique opportunity to bolster nationalistic and patriotic support. Whether the intent or the outcome of the propaganda campaign is positive is a matter of much debate (which we won’t dive into here).

Adam’s Commentary:

I took trips through North Korea, Vietnam, and China where my goal was to witness as much government propaganda as possible. It is a subject that I have always been fascinated with and I know Miya feels the same. We have collected books and ephemera on the subject and hope to have the means to someday collect imagery such as posters. Propaganda has begun to be seen as more than stimulation and suggestion created to promote a point of view. You can now find propaganda museums, galleries, and touring exhibits all around the world.

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