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Image of three people; one voting, one working and one walking with the words "Finish the Fight" at the top and information about the NAACP membership drive at the bottom

The NAACP: Using Posters to Encourage Civic Action

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This post is by Caneisha Mills, the 2022-2023 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

In 1946 the NAACP was a growing organization committed to the major tenets of the organization: advocate for civil rights, end violence targeted at the African American community, increase economic opportunity, and advance the cause of suffrage. Introduce students to the core views of the organization using this NAACP poster created by artist Elton C. Fax.

Posters are a signifier of our society, according to letterpress artist Amos Kennedy. Illustrators, activists and authors use the power of words and images to persuade or convince. One of the key skill sets that children develop in middle school is the ability to read words and cite evidence to determine meaning and impact. While students often master the skill required to pull quotations from an informational text, they can struggle to convey the writer’s message.

One way to help students master the building blocks of literacy is to start small. Analyze this poster, created by the NAACP, multiple times for different purposes.

First, ask students what they know about the NAACP. Make a list of terms or phrases that they associate with the organization. Display this student-generated list throughout the lesson and reference it at different points to show growth in understanding the NAACP.

During the first observation, ask students what human figure stands out to them: Did the man, boy, or woman catch their eye first? Next, ask what objects stand out to them, such as the gas pump, books, or ballot. Then ask students what colors they observe in the poster. In addition, ask why the color stood out to them and if they can connect the colors to a particular emotion.

After the first observation, ask students to work in small groups using the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Ask each group to record their observations, reflections, and questions about the image on the document. Then engage groups in a class discussion about their findings. Ask groups to share what word, image, color, or object stood out to them first. Tell groups to analyze the slogan, “Finish the Fight! Join NAACP Now.” Ask students to compare the word “finish” with “continue,” and students could debate which term was best for the NAACP in 1946. Or, ask students how membership in the NAACP might have been a form of fighting. Ask students their opinion of the slogan.

Next, you may want to discuss the terms, “Jobs, Education, the Vote.” Ask each group to decide which term they most associate with the NAACP. And ask groups how the NAACP fought for jobs, education, and suffrage. Teachers could encourage small groups or pairs to complete a short research project on the activities of the NAACP around suffrage, education, and employment in their respective state or on artists like Elton C. Fax who created posters for the NAACP using historical newspapers found in Chronicling America.

How could you use this poster in your classroom? Share your teaching strategies with us in the comments.

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Comments (2)

  1. What is the poster by the NAACP trying to make Americans aware of?

    • I encourage you to work with your teacher to find the answer to your question. What issues were important to the NAACP? What was going on at the time the poster was created? You may need to do research to answer those questions.

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