Inspirational Portfolio [54] | Emory Douglas

My agreeing to the projects is another way for me to continue to raise funds for social causes I support and as a means to lend my support to young socially progressive community minded enterpreneyus – Emory Douglas

    Emory Douglas (born May 24, 1943 in Grand Rapids, Michigan) worked as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded in the 1980s. His graphic art was featured in most issues of the newspaper The Black Panther (which had a peak circulation of 139,000 per week in 1970) and has become an iconic representation of the struggles of the Party during the 1960s and 1970s. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Douglas “branded the militant-chic Panther image decades before the concept became commonplace. He used the newspaper’s popularity to incite the disenfranchised to action, portraying the poor with genuine empathy, not as victims but as outraged, unapologetic and ready for a fight.”
As a teenager, Douglas was incarcerated at the Youth Training School in Ontario, California; during his time there he worked in the prison’s printing shop. He later studied commercial art at San Francisco City College.

Colette Gaiter writes:
“     Douglas was the most prolific and persistent graphic agitator in the American Black Power movements. Douglas profoundly understood the power of images in communicating ideas…. Inexpensive printing technologies—including photostats and presstype, textures and patterns—made publishing a two-color heavily illustrated, weekly tabloid newspaper possible. Graphic production values associated with seductive advertising and waste in a decadent society became weapons of the revolution. Technically, Douglas collaged and re-collaged drawings and photographs, performing graphic tricks with little budget and even less time. His distinctive illustration style featured thick black outlines (easier to trap) and resourceful tint and texture combinations. Conceptually, Douglas’s images served two purposes: first, illustrating conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and second, constructing a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized. Most popular media represents middle to upper class people as “normal.” Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and oppressed. Departing from the WPA/social realist style of portraying poor people, which can be perceived as voyeuristic and patronizing, Douglas’s energetic drawings showed respect and aection. He maintained poor people’s dignity while graphically illustrating harsh situations.



Sometime in the early 1970s, the graphic artist Emory Douglas answered his phone to find an art dealer on the line. The man heaped high praise on Douglas’s artwork, along with promises of riches to be made. He asked Douglas to come to a meeting in San Francisco. Douglas hesitated. The next time the man called, Douglas replied that he wasn’t interested and hung up. After all, his number was unlisted.

“So I figured it was the police,” he told the crowd who had come to see a retrospective exhibit of his work at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art Pacific Design Center in October 2007. Douglas is now a grandfather in his mid-60s. The short afro he had sported three decades ago has been replaced by a smoothly shaved head, often topped by a stylish fedora. His easygoing demeanor and gentle smile hardly betray the idea of his once having been a high-level law enforcement target, but nearly four decades ago he had a right to be paranoid as the Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. From 1967 to roughly 1980, Douglas oversaw the art direction and production of The Black Panther, the party’s official newspaper. Douglas’s artwork in the paper played no small part in propagating its combative criticisms of the U.S. government, as well as any other institutions or persons the party viewed as perpetuators of racism, police brutality, poverty and global imperialism. Years after the suspicious call, released FBI records would confirm that Douglas had been identified and listed on its Security Index and Agitator Index. “It didn’t bother me at all. It just meant we were doing our jobs,” says Douglas later, on the phone from San Francisco. (read more at AIGA: Design Journeys Emory Douglas



It’s an ongoing process, always changing and evolving, like life. We have to overcome the obstacles and rise up to the challenges – Emory Douglas




Be patient and stay focused on your goal. Develop your craft continuously. And have fun! – Emory Douglas




The majority of the world is populated by people of color. Anything can be diverse if diverse people get involved in it. – Emory Douglas



Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (


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