Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Polish Immigrant Husking Corn

John Collier. "Polish Immigrant Husking Corn." Greenfield (vicinity), Connecticut. October 1941. FSA-OWI photo collection, Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rescuing Refugees

Ralph M. Faust in 1945, as principal of Oswego High School, Oswego, New York

Saturday, June 20, 2015 was World Refugee Day. I was invited, thanks to the good offices of Nola Heidlebaugh, to accept on behalf of my late uncle Ralph the Ralph M. Faust Humanitarian Award--awarded to Ralph M. Faust, who was principal of Oswego High School in Oswego, New York (1939-1964). In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the establishment of a refugee shelter at Fort Ontario, in Oswego, New York, which is now the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center. The Ralph M. Faust Humanitarian Award was presented for the first time this year and is expected to be an annual award. In 1944, 983 refugees, mostly Jewish, were brought to the center from Italy, to which they had fled from all over Europe to escape Nazi persecution. When they arrived in Oswego, Ralph M. Faust played a leading role in welcoming them to the community and arranged for 40 of them to attend Oswego High School. He is remembered as a hero by many of the refugees, who were eventually allowed to immigrate and apply for citizenship. They left the camp in January 1946. The photograph shows Ralph Faust in 1945, from the Oswego High School yearbook. See also the short video about the refugees --

Monday, November 16, 2015

Peace for Paris

 Peace for Paris. Designed by Jean Jullien.

Some links on the story of this design, which is circulating rapidly after the recent attacks in Paris--

"French Artist Tells How He Created 'Symbol of Peace for Paris.'" Time.

Fast Co. Design

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No Nixon Agnew War -- artist identified as Karl Kasten

"No Nixon Agnew War." Poster, silk screen. Artist: Karl Kasten. From the Thomas W. Benson Political Protest Collection, Penn State University libraries. 

The artist has been identified as Karl Kasten, a professor of art practice at Berkeley in 1970. Source: note to the author from Phil Allen, received November 3, 2015 (see next note on blog). The poster is Plate 20 in Thomas W. Benson, Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015).

Run This One Up Your Flagpole, Dick -- artist comes forward

"Run this one up Your Flagpole, Dick!" Poster, silk screen, Berkeley, California, c. May 1970. Artist: Phil Allen. The poster is in the Thomas W. Benson Political Protest Collection at the Pennsylvania State University libraries.

Since the publication of Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015) I have been hoping that some of the unknown artists who designed and screened these posters would come across the book and get in touch with me to reveal something more about the origins, organization, and aftermath of the posters, which were produced at the University of California, Berkeley, in the weeks after the U. S. invasion of Cambodia and the killings at Kent State University and Jackson State College.

Just yesterday, one of the artists, Phil Allen, came forward to identify himself as the artist of the poster "Run this on up Your Flagpole, Dick!"  Here is his note (reproduced here with permission):

Dear Prof. Benson,..

I'm glad I thumbed through the copy of Posters for Peace newly displayed at my local city library, as two of the depicted posters --screened at UC-Berkeley in the Spring of 1970--hold more-than-routine attention.

I designed/screened the one shown in Plate 18. It gave me a chance to exercise my newly-recovered (childhood) interest in flags, and include 'clever' language and an Oliphant-like caricature of Mr. Nixon. The registration number '4973' was shared by other artists, as required by some quasi-authority in charge of the liberated classroom in Kroeber Hall. The slanted line and triangle is my stylized monogram. Vexillarily, I've since gone on design and research flags. If there is an authority on the football penalty flag, I am he.

Plate 20 was the work of one of my art-practice professors, Karl Kasten. It has a level of quality missing in most of the others we cranked out. Nice of him to include one of the lesser grim personalities of the era.

Plates 27, 31, and 53 have always been particularly effective for me. 27 and 53 were to me something of a personal invitation to wrestle with inner beliefs and outward commitment, and 31 is possibly the most enduring single image of all our creations. I still see it around.

Many folks hereabouts had quite a time of it recently, as last autumn the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement was celebrated with many gatherings, albeit with fewer notables due to death. I found myself unable to get involved in '64, still being in high school at the time, and full of adult envy. I decided to be a grump about it last year until I realized that my time came during that highly-charged, far less remembered Spring of 1970: Cambodia's invasion and 4-5 more killings at Kent/Jackson, and locally...Peoples' Park (1 more death); many energized youth who got progressives elected to state and national office, and those posters. When 2020 comes around, I'll be ready.

phil allen, Cal '71 (Art)
If this posting reaches anyone who was one of the artists, or who knows one of the artists, I hope you will come forward so that we can continue to add more fully to the historical account. Please consider sharing this on Facebook and other social media, so that it might eventually reach some of the other artists.

See also Amerika Is Devouring Its Children

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More debates, more democracy?

 "So why not schedule more debates?  Why not schedule a whole bunch of additional debates?"

John Nichols, "After One Good Debate, Democrats Need to Schedule a Lot More of Them," The Nation,  October 16, 2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Our well regulated militia. Isn't.

"Conservatives often embrace “originalism,” the idea that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed when it was ratified, in 1787. They mock the so-called liberal idea of a “living” constitution, whose meaning changes with the values of the country at large. But there is no better example of the living Constitution than the conservative re-casting of the Second Amendment in the last few decades of the twentieth century."

Jeffrey Toobin, "So You Think You Know the Second Amendment," The New Yorker, December 17, 2012. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Malcolm X Day

"Malcolm X NYWTS 2a" by Ed Ford, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925. His birthday is celebrated as a holiday in Berkeley, California.

I attended the debate between Malcolm X and James Farmer at the Cornell University Law School on March 7, 1962, and later had a chance to talk with both Malcolm and Farmer at a small post-debate reception at Telluride House.

In the debate, James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and leader of the Freedom Rides of the previous year, argued for integration as the only moral and practical way forward for the country. Progress was slow, he conceded, but progress was happening.

Malcolm, who was at the time still a minister in the Nation of Islam, and who was accompanied by two bodyguards (and, unknown to us, apparently by FBI observers) argued for separation of the races on the grounds that integration was not working and that in any case American blacks wanted not "an integrated cup of coffee" but "freedom, justice, and equality."

A transcript of the debate was later published in a local newsletter; it has been reprinted in Ronald Reid and James Klumpp, American Public Discourse.


Benson, Thomas W. "Rhetoric and Autobiography: The Case of Malcolm X." Quarterly Journal Of Speech 60, no. 1 (February 1974): 1-13.

Farmer, James. Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1985.

Malcolm X. Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. New York: Ballantine, reprint ed. 1992.

Reid, Ronald, and James Klumpp. American Rhetorical Discourse. Waveland, 1988, 1995, 2005.