New Exhibit: The Revolution Will be Printed – Graphic Arts as Activism

The Revolution Will be Printed: Graphic Arts as Activism is a celebration of printed works that drive social change through celebration, critique, and creation. To kick off this exhibit, I am thinking about artwork created for two different printed newspapers in Hornbake’s holdings, El Malcriado and the AFL-CIO News that cover the Delano Grape Strike.

In protest against poor pay and working conditions, over 800 farmworkers agreed to strike and walked off their jobs in the grape fields of Delano, California in September 1965. The strike leaders were Filipino members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). They reached out to the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) for support. The NFWA membership, whose leaders included César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, voted in overwhelming favor of striking. The AWOC and the NFWA then became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) union.

El Malcriado was established by César Chávez as the unofficial newspaper of the UFW (United Farmworkers of America) in 1964. It was titled after a rallying cry from the Mexican Revolution and was printed first in Spanish and then in English as well (1910-1920). The woodcuts, engravings, and pen-and-ink drawings for El Malcriado continue a Mexican-American (Chicano/a/x) graphic arts tradition.

This cover by Frank Cieciorka brings together cultivation and cultural heritage. Agricultural labor is brought back to ancient practice through the prominence of maize and the integration of Mesoamerican sculpture and architecture. Cieciorka is also known for the woodcut print of the fist that graced countless posters and buttons at demonstrations throughout the 1960s. 

César Chávez invited artist Andrew Zermeño to create covers for El Malcriado throughout the twelve-year run of the paper. As the publication provided a place for information exchange and community building around shared culture, some covers alluded to the union’s efforts through religious motifs that contributed to a sense of transcendent purpose.

Some covers were much more direct about both the union’s desired outcomes and the UFW’s criticisms of the Delano region grape growers.

The demonstration of solidarity between agricultural workers of different ethnic backgrounds that strengthened the strike efforts and ultimately led to the formation of the UFW was one all Americans were invited into through grape boycotts.

Now, to the AFLCIO News. Maryland-native and cartoonist John Stampone, whose work for various publications including The New York Times, centered on labor rights within the broader landscape of American culture. This piece invited everyday shoppers to see how they could support the efforts of the farmworkers for improved wages and working conditions through their daily shopping choices. 

“The Only Kind to Buy”

Another cartoon by Stampone for AFL-CIO News highlights the solidarity that characterized the Delano Grape Strike from the original strike all the way through to the collective bargaining agreement with major grape growers in 1970.

Coverage of the Delano Grape Strike in these publications within labor collections at Hornbake reveals how printed arts helped unify people and drive action toward a desired goal. 

Visit the Maryland Room today through June 30 to see some of these, and even more, pieces from The Revolution Will be Printed: Graphic Arts as Activism exhibit.

Anastasia Armendariz is the curator of this exhibit and an MLIS student with a field study in Outreach & Instruction, Special Collections and University Archives. She is also the Graduate Assistant for Teaching & Learning Services.

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