1948 – 1977 Growth and Turmoil Supplemental Materials

Art Activities

Political Buttons

Political buttons in the United States can be traced all the way back to President George Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, but the pinback buttons we know today first appeared in 1896. These celluloid buttons, made by sealing a paper disc under a layer of clear plastic onto metal backing, presented mass-produced and colorful ways to make statements. These buttons quickly became both a popular advertising medium and a collectible. Buttons continued to be used for political campaigns, such as Shirley Chisholm’s run for the presidency and Bella Abzug’s congressional campaigns in the early 1970s. They were also used to show support for causes or social movements, such as those made to advocate for the release of activist and political prisoner Angela Davis. Today, people make and wear pinback buttons for a variety of social and political causes, as well as for personal expression.

Drawing inspiration from pinback buttons of the 1970s, students will create their own set of buttons that express the views of a social movement or political campaign of that time period. Students will consider the design elements that make the messaging of a button effective, and will also discuss pinback buttons as artifacts and material culture.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Zines and Revolutionaries

Women of many different races, cultures, and identities led activist groups and collectives across the 1960s and 1970s in pursuit of their beliefs. One of the ways that these groups shared ideas, spread information, and raised awareness was through the creation and distribution of pamphlets and newspapers. In the following decades, the sharing of information shifted in some groups to the creation of “do-it-yourself” zines. As a non-commercial way to challenge the mainstream and spark dialogue, zines continue to be a powerful form of ideological and creative expression for marginalized voices.

Students will read and analyze a variety of publications–pamphlets, newspapers, and newsletters–created and distributed by activist groups and collectives in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing inspiration from the images and writings of W.A.R.N., the Young Lords Party, and the Furies, students will work in small groups to create zines responding to what they’ve learned about activist women’s groups during this time period.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Empowerment through Art

During the Jim Crow era, Black Americans fought back against racist stereotypes by circulating imagery that depicted Black progress and success. Frederick Douglass, for example, believed that photography had the power to challenge prejudice. In the 1960s and 1970s, Black Americans also conveyed messages of Black pride through the emerging Black Power and Black Arts movements. Black Power was a revolutionary movement that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, emphasizing racial pride, economic empowerment, and the creation of political and cultural institutions. The Black Arts movement explored these concepts through poetry, literature, visual art, music, and theater. Existing both at the intersection and on the margins of Black Power and the Feminist movement, artist Betye Saar began creating assemblages that spoke to the experiences and resilience of Black women, and that confronted racism in America. While early 20th century European and American artists used assemblages to create surrealist representations of the unconscious or to disrupt the values of commercialized galleries with everyday materials, Saar’s assemblages reclaimed and recontextualized historical objects to create new symbols of Black strength and power.

After analyzing assemblages created by Betye Saar in 1972 and 2017, as well as the Jim Crow era imagery that Saar reclaimed in her work, students will create their own assemblages using collage materials and found objects. They will consider the political statements that Betye Saar made with her artwork, and choose a social or political issue that women advocated for in the 1960s and 1970s that still resonates today as the focus of their own pieces. Students will think about the significance of each element of the assemblage, and how they all come together aesthetically to convey a larger message.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Source Notes

Cold War Beginnings

The Kitchen Debate

  • Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 2 vols. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014).
  • May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. (New York: Basic Books, 2017).

Post-War Consumerism

  • May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 2017).
  • Woloch, Nancy. Women and the American Experience. (New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011).

Housing Disparities

  • Comerio, Mary C. “Pruitt Igoe and Other Stories.” JAE 34, no. 4 (1981): 26–31.
  • Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 2 vols. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014).
  • Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law (Liveright Publishing Corporation: New York, 2017).

Barbie and Christie

  • Avila, Rolando. “Barbie.” In Women in American History, Volume 4, edited by Peg A. Lamphier and Rosanne Welch. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2017, pp. 10–11.
  • Forman-Brunell, Miriam. “What Barbie Dolls Have to Say about Postwar American Culture.” Artifact Analysis: A Teacher’s Guide to Interpreting Objects and Writing History. Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/idealabs/ap/essays/barbie.htm. Accessed October 8, 2020.

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