Position Paper #1 on Revolutionary Art
By Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture
1968 (adapted from)
"Revolutionary Art does not demand any more sacrifice from the revolutionary artist than
what is demanded from a traitor (Negro) who draws for the oppressor. Therefore, the
creation of revolutionary art is not a tragedy, but an honor and duty that will never be
Revolutionary art begins with the program that Huey P. Newton instituted with the
BLACK PANTHER PARTY. REBOLUTIONARY ART, like the Party, is for the whole
community and its total problems. It gives the people the correct picture of our struggle,
whereas the Revolutionary Ideology gives the people the correct political understanding of
our struggle. Before a correct visual interpretation of the struggle can be given, we must
recognize that Revolutionary Art is an art that flows from the people. It must be a whole
and living part of the people's lives, their daily struggle to survive. To draw about
revolutionary things, we must shoot and/or be ready to shoot when the time comes. In
order to draw about the people who are shooting, we must capture the true revolution in a
pictorial fashion. We must feel what the people feel who throw rocks and bottles at the
oppressor so that when we draw about it - we can raise their level of consciousness to handgrenades and dynamite to be launched at the oppressor. Revolutionary Art gives a
physical confrontation with tyrants, and also enlightens the people to continue their
vigorous attack by educating the masses through participation and observation.
Through the Revolutionary Artist's observations of the people, we can picture the territory
on which we live (as slaves): project maximum damage to the oppressor with minimum
damage to the people, and come out victorious.
The Revolutionary Artist's talents are just one of the weapons he uses in the struggle for
Black People. His art becomes a tool for liberation. Revolutionary Art can thereby
progress as the people progresses because the People are the backbone to the Artist and not
the Artist to the People.
To conceive any type of visual interpretations of the struggle, the Revolutionary Artist
must constantly be agitating the people, but before one agitates the people as the struggle
progresses one must make strong roots among the masses of the people. Then and only
then can a Revolutionary Artist renew the visual interpretation of Revolutionary Art
indefinitely until liberation. By making these strong roots among the masses of the Black
People, the Revolutionary Artist rises above the confusion that the oppressor has brought
on the colonized people, because all of us (as slaves) from the Christian to the brother on
the block, the college student and the high school drop out, the street walker and the
secretary, the pimp and the preacher, the domestic and the gangster: all the elements of the
ghetto can understand Revolutionary Art.
The ghetto itself is the gallery for the Revolutionary Artist's drawings. His work is pasted
on the walls of the ghetto; in storefront windows, fences, doorways, telephone poles and
booths, passing buses, alleyways, gas stations, barber shops, beauty parlors, laundromats,
liquor stores, as well as the huts of the ghetto.
This way the Revolutionary Artist educates the people as they go through their daily
routine, from day to day, week to week, and month to month. This way the Revolutionary
Artist cuts through the smokescreens of the oppressor and creates brand new images of
Revolutionary action - for the total community.
Revolutionary Art is an extension and interpretation to the masses in the most simple and
obvious from. Without being a revolutionary and committed to the struggle for liberation,
the artist could not express revolution at all. Revolutionary Art is learned in the ghetto
from the pig cops on the beat, demagogue politicians and avaricious businessmen. Not in
the schools of fine art. The Revolutionary Artist hears the people's screams when they are
being attacked by the pigs. They share their curses when they feel like killing the pigs, but
are unequipped. He watches and hears the sounds of foot steps of Black People trampling
the ghetto streets and translates them into pictures of slow revolts against the slave
masters, stomping them in their brains with bullets, that we can have power and freedom
to determine the destiny of our community and help to build "our world."
Revolutionary Art is a returning from the blind, whereas we no longer let the oppressor
lead us around like watchdogs.