Artists and designers have long responded to social and political events to express their personal feelings and opinions or to promote the agenda of the media, a political movement, or other organization. Often these images have addressed the rights protected in the U.S. Constitution, such as the freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, or the right to organize and appeal for legal change.
An event that began in 1930—known as “The Scottsboro Boys Trials”—was just such a provocation. Reflecting the racial injustice common in the United States at the time, the case was often sensationalized in the news media and was adopted as a cause for change by the International Labor Defense (or ILD, which was founded by The Communist Party USA in 1925.) The focus of this lesson is on a book entitled Scottsboro: A Story in Block Prints, which is part of The Wolfsonian collection.
Depending on time, you may choose to focus on either the whole book of linocuts or select several images to use in the lesson below. They may be downloaded and printed out or projected for a group discussion.
- Allow students to arrive at their own conclusions about the image by facilitating an open group discussion using the Visual Thinking Strategies© methodology:
- What’s going on in this picture?
- What do you see that makes you say that?
- What more can we find?
NOTE: Use the second question to prompt students when they do not provide evidence for their reasoning; for example, “What do you see that makes you say that the man looks sad?”
After this discussion, IF students request more information, you can provide some historical background on the creation of these linocuts.
- What social or political events today are being addressed on magazine covers? (You may want to do a Google search for magazine covers for labor and politics to have some examples to show. Examples include: Time Magazine Person of the year 2011, “The Protester,” cover.)