Designs for Morrison, Roosevelt, Sampson join perSISTERS Poster Series

TELL your story — #FemalePowerProject honoring Toni Morrison
#FemalePowerProject — use PRIVILEGE to sow JUSTICE

Here are two new poster designs in the #FemalePowerProject Positive Protest Principles Posters series, also called the perSISTERS. Now I will tell you about them.

TELL your story

It is partly through telling our stories—claiming the language for our experience—that we find female power. The more we speak and read, the more it is possible to express, and the more individual, “particularized,” experience becomes the rich shared experience of all humans.

Design note:
In case you’re wondering about the wiggly-flower thing in the upper right, I was inspired by the striking flower pin Toni Morrison is wearing in the photo of her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. Looking through my type ornaments, this one caught my eye. (It is part of the Poetica Typeface.) I think of it as an animated version of the flower pin Morrison is wearing. I placed it in the design over her open hand as if she is juggling a living story, throwing it into the air and into the world where it becomes an independent organism, providing a “context for our lives.”

Toni Morrison (born February 18, 1931) is an American novelist, editor, teacher, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved. Inspired by the true story of an enslaved African American woman, Margaret Garner, who had escaped slavery but was pursued by slave hunters. Facing a return to slavery, Garner killed her two-year-old daughter but was captured before she could kill herself. Morrison’s novel imagines the dead baby returning as a ghost, Beloved, to haunt her mother and family. It would be hard to overestimate the influence of this novel on literature and American cultural understanding. Beloved is the first of three novels about love and African American history, sometimes called the Beloved Trilogy. Morrison has said they are intended to be read together, explaining, “The conceptual connection is the search for the beloved – the part of the self that is you, and loves you, and is always there for you.” In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her citation reads: Toni Morrison, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” She was the first black woman of any nationality to win the prize. In her Nobel acceptance speech, Morrison talked about the power of storytelling. To make her point, she told a story. She spoke about a blind, old, black woman who is approached by a group of young people. They demand of her, “Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong? … Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story.”

Adapted from the Wikipedia entry


When doing research on Eleanor Roosevelt I found this photo of her that includes Edith Sampson. They worked together on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations when the organization was crafting the remarkable Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone should read this document which has been translated into over 500 languages. Who is Edith Sampson? She was a complicated woman at a complicated time, and this is what I found out about Eleanor and Edith.

Design notes:
Blue was Roosevelt’s favorite color. The orchid icon (background design) was made by from

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was an American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, having held the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, and served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. President Harry S. Truman later called her the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

Roosevelt was a member of the prominent American Roosevelt and Livingston families and a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. She married her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1905.

Eleanor and Franklin’s marriage was always complicated, and she resolved to seek fulfillment in a public life of her own. She persuaded Franklin to stay in politics after he was stricken with debilitating polio in 1921, which cost him the normal use of his legs, and Roosevelt began giving speeches and appearing at campaign events in his place. Following Franklin’s election as Governor of New York in 1928, and throughout the remainder of Franklin’s public career in government, Roosevelt regularly made public appearances on his behalf, and as First Lady while her husband served as President, she significantly reshaped and redefined the role of that office during her own tenure and beyond, for future First Ladies.

Though widely respected in her later years, Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady at the time for her outspokenness, particularly her stance on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column, write a monthly magazine column, host a weekly radio show, and speak at a national party convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband’s policies. She launched an experimental community at Arthurdale, West Virginia, for the families of unemployed miners, later widely regarded as a failure. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.

Following her husband’s death in 1945, Roosevelt remained active in politics for the remaining 17 years of her life. She pressed the United States to join and support the United Nations and became its first delegate. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy administration’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. By the time of her death, Roosevelt was regarded as “one of the most esteemed women in the world”; she was called “the object of almost universal respect” in her New York Times obituary.

Adapted from Wikipedia

Edith Spurlock Sampson (October 13, 1898 – October 8, 1979) was an American lawyer and judge, and the first Black U.S. delegate appointed to the United Nations.

Sampson came from a struggling family and left school at 14 to work. She eventually did finish high school and while she worked she studied at the New York School of Social Work. One of her instructors encouraged her to become an attorney. She worked as a social worker in the day and studied law at night. Sampson graduated from John Marshall Law School. In 1924 Sampson opened a law office on the South Side of Chicago, serving the local black community. From 1925 through 1942, she was associated with the Juvenile Court of Cook County and served as a probation officer. In 1927 Sampson became the first woman to earn a Master of Laws from Loyola University’s Graduate Law School. She also passed the Illinois State Bar exam that year. In 1934 Sampson became one of the first women to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1943, she became one of the first black members of the National Association of Women Lawyers. In 1947 she was appointed an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County. President Truman appointed Sampson as an alternate U.S. delegate to the United Nations in August 1950, making her the first African-American to officially represent the United States at the UN. She was reappointed to the UN in 1952, and served until 1953. During the Eisenhower Administration, she was a member of the U.S. Commission for UNESCO. In 1961 and 1962, she became the first black U.S. representative to NATO.

In 1949, Sampson was part of a non-government program that sent twenty-six prominent Americans on a world tour meeting leaders and citizens of foreign countries and participating in public political debates and radio broadcasts. Part of the reason she was able to participate is that, being a successful lawyer, she had the money to pay her own way. Sampson sought to counter the propaganda in the Soviet Union during the Cold War regarding the treatment of African Americans in the United States. This was controversial within the African American community and she was sometimes called an apologist for America’s injustices. Federal support for civil rights had to be a factor in a foreign policy that saw the cold war, at the time, as a war of ideas, and Edith Sampson was in the middle of this. It has been suggested that because she did not live in the American South and did not have connections there, she was not as aware of conditions there. She was a respected person at home and abroad and pressed for justice in the U.S.. She told an audience in Des Moines in 1950: “You have got to open these closed doors and end segregation if you are going to save yourselves. Communist agents have used the story of segregation as a propaganda weapon….It is bad enough, but the story they get abroad is worse than is actually true. If we had a real Fair Employment Practices Commission, it would mean more than having millions of dollars spent through the Marshall Plan. The people of the eastern and backward countries do not want gratuities; they want to be able to believe in you.” This was before the nonviolent protests spearheaded by Dr. King (with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955) which pivoted the thinking of how to work for civil rights with the U.S. as a major character on the world stage.

Non-violent civil disobedience changed everything. “As a young preacher named Martin Luther King asserted amid the excitement of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, ‘If we were incarcerated behind the iron curtains of a communistic nation—we couldn’t do this. If we were trapped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime—we couldn’t do this. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right….We are here because of our love for democracy, because of our deep-seated belief that democracy transformed from thin paper to thick action is the greatest form of government on earth.’”* Thus the protests were framed as an example of a vibrant American democracy, not as a symptom of its failure. Over time Sampson did become impatient with the slow pace of civil rights progress in the U.S.. In a speech to African American high school graduates in 1960, she said “We have convinced ourselves, because it seemed so necessary, that the battle against injustice could be won piece by piece through changes in law, through court appeals, through persistent but cautious pressures. We were mistaken. No—we were wrong. Ours was not the only way. It was not even the best way.” She stood “in admiration of those who…effectively used the new device of non-violence borrowed from Christ and Gandhi and brought to sharpened potency …by Martin Luther King.”* She concluded that, if it were possible for her to start over again, perhaps she would not make as many mistakes or miss as many opportunities, and that she may have had more courage to do things better. She still maintained that communicating person-to-person about American ideals and the lives of African Americans was better than any published propaganda.

In 1962 Sampson became the first black woman to be elected as a judge in the state of Illinois. By 1969 she had apparently regained her faith in working within the system, saying in a speech: “We learned that we could work within the establishment, the system, without necessarily knuckling under to it.”

She was a privileged woman and she worked for justice at a time, like now, when great inhuman forces seemed to be at work, and it was not entirely clear how to proceed.

From Wikipedia and *“The American Way: Edith Sampson, the NAACP, and African American Identity in the Cold War” by Helen Laville and Scott Lucas, published in Diplomatic History (1996) 20 (4): 565-590