Classic American labor posters were created with the dual purpose of entertaining and informing.
Now, just in time for Labor Day, Lincoln Cushing, co-author of Agitate! Educate! Organize!, shares the history and rich graphic tradition of labor posters on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801Main St.
These posters were vehicles for working people to present themselves visually, but in doing so they cover lots of ground.
For starters, the American labor force is not monolithic. Nor are the posters about just wage labor. They repeatedly demonstrate that labor issues include both the workplace and the outside community and often portray families and neighbors, not just fellow workers
Agitate! Educate! Organize! (co-authored by Timothy W. Drescher) features lavish full-color reproductions of more than 250 of the best posters that have emerged from the American labor movement. Some were issued by government programs and campaigns; some were devised by unions as recruiting tools or strike announcements; others were generated by grassroots organizations focused on a particular issue or group of workers.
Among the themes explored by labor posters are dignity and exploitation; health and safety; women; race and civil rights; peace and internationalism; solidarity and organizing; strikes and boycotts; democracy, voting, and patriotism; and history, heroes, and martyrs.
All reveal much about the diverse experiences of working people in the United States and contribute to a deeper understanding of the politics, history, artistry, and impact of this genre of activist art and the importance of the labor movement in the transformation of American society in the twentieth century.
Lincoln Cushing was born in Havana, Cuba, and is a librarian, archivist, author, and lecturer. He is a digital archivist and communications consultant for Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the All of Us or None collection at the Oakland Museum of California.
He is the author of Revolucion!: Cuban Poster Art and (with Ann Tompkins) Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Co-sponsored by The Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, the Greater Kansas City Building & Construction Trades Council, United Autoworkers CAP Council, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 124, Service Employees International Union Local 1, and Kansas City Jobs with Justice.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407.