This exhibition presents 33 posters, most illustrating Africans and African-American civilians in times of war. It is curated by Tukufu Zuberi, the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations, and Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and organized by the Northwest African American Museum. The posters exemplify the visual marketing tactics employed by Military to recruit and persuade black citizens into the U.S. war.
What we discover in the exhibition is that the biggest war weapon was propaganda!
Propaganda was used to unify a nation and build up nationalism in the United States, by integrating traditional visual codes already recognized in mass culture-like films, posters, consumer products, newsreels, etc. The poster became the ideal communication platform to influence popular culture. Designed to look like advertisements or movie posters and simultaneously visually compelling, the overall psychological effect of war messaging in posters had a mobilizing effect on society. The abolishment of slavery and the subsequent segregation in America meant most blacks were denied equal opportunities. Therefore, after the Great Depression, African Americans expressly bought into the wartime dogma that promoted production and economic recovery, further reinforcing the notion that prosperity could be achieved while supporting the war agenda despite mounting oppression at home.
The posters in the exhibition will reveal how the visual imagery from the Offices of War Information was used to manipulate the culture into shifting its ideology about the war, which ultimately led to greater patriotism and wartime production in the US.